As I reflected on what I wanted to do to make this Lent truly holy and transformative, I was drawn to think of this time in a different way than I previously have. While I still decided on a few minor areas where I could give something up and simplify my life, I really wanted to focus on adopting a perspective of gratitude. More than giving things up, this Lent I wanted to take notice and pay attention.
The seeds for this idea where planted during our recent retreat at the Society of St. John the Evangelist (SSJE). One morning Br. Curtis Almquist talked with the GOTHs about what he called “the life giving way of gratitude.” He encouraged us to really take notice of our lives and to give thanks for all that we have. We were encouraged to really go deep in this exercise, to the most basic level. Br. Curtis described how, if we really engage with it, this exercise in giving thanks will take us to a point where we might quite literally be “praying without ceasing” as St. Paul says. I can give thanks for waking up on any given morning, and I can give thanks for shelter and warmth and for food in the pantry. But even more than that I can give thanks for the fact that I am able to get out of the bed, that I have the ability to walk and think and reason. It might seem that the exercise becomes tedious, as we literally give thanks for everything. But for me it is such a powerful reminder of the fact that everything I have is a gift from God.
This perspective of gratitude is such a major paradigm shift for me. I value efficiency and dependability. I usually express gratitude only if things are done as I think they should be done. Often I find myself praying very intentionally for something only to fail to be thankful if it happens. There’s usually no time for me to think about it because I have already moved on to the next item on my list of things to do.
This invitation to live deeply in gratitude is also an invitation to live deeply in the present. Nothing is certain. We are not promised tomorrow. What we have is right now. I am called to recognize the present as a good moment and as a gift from God. I am invited to move more deeply into the awareness that God’s abiding presence sustains the world I live in. By paying attention and acknowledging the abundant gifts from God, I am drawn into the reality that God is present to me at all times and cares for me in all aspects of my life.
This Lent I am committing to live more deeply into this way of gratitude. As I journey deeper into this process, I know that I will struggle, but with God’s help I know I will continue to grow into the realization that all gifts come from God.