Pastoral Post 11.24.2017

A Lifestyle of Gratitude

- Becky Brown

“So live in Christ Jesus the Lord in the same way as you received him. Be rooted and built up in him, be established in faith, and overflow with thanksgiving just as you were taught. See to it that nobody enslaves you with philosophy and foolish deception, which conform to human traditions and the way the world thinks and acts rather than Christ. All the fullness of deity lives in Christ’s body. And you have been filled by him, who is the head of every ruler and authority.” (Colossians 2:6-10 CEB)

One of my favorite traditions of our Thanksgiving meal is when we all go around the room and share what we are thankful for this year. Well, that and filling my plate with fantastic homemade food and desserts, naturally. No matter how many family members are gathered for the holiday, this is always a meaningful experience. Many share from their hearts, some more than others, but often we are all fighting back tears. Not tears of sadness, but tears of gratitude. Our family shares openly about the struggles of the year, and how we have come through them, or have seen God’s presence within the difficulties. We give thanks for relationships. Our children usually say things like: I’m thankful for mac and cheese and candy, or I like trucks, and we all laugh together. These are intimate moments that are full of God’s grace.

As I have been reflecting on living a life of gratitude that is rooted in Christ, I have been reminded of how intimate this meaningful practice is. I remember a few years back when some social media genius decided to start a campaign to invite others to share one thing they were thankful for each of the days of November on their Facebook page. It was beautiful. It was joyous. It was refreshing. It was inspirational. Yet, it provided the same trap that social media often lays: the desire to have the most meaningful post of all, or the feeling that all of these people sharing were just making things up to make a show of it, or a realization that you really don’t have much to be thankful for.

What would it look like for those same Facebook authors to share their gratitude with the people who are it’s source? What if the challenge was to pick up the phone and call someone to tell them why you are thankful for them? I mean, that is way harder. It requires time, self reflection, and a tremendous amount of vulnerability. I doubt anyone looking from the outside in could doubt the sincerity. It would be real and could be life changing for the hearer. It could provide a beginning to the healing of a strained relationship.

A few years ago, Andy and I co-led a marriage retreat with Anita and Wilson Strickhausen. It was fantastic, and I hope it was as meaningful to the others as it was to our marriage. One of the first exercises involved facing your spouse, sitting knee to knee, and each taking turns sharing 5 reasons we were thankful for them while the other listened without speaking. This was done in private because of the degree of vulnerability and privacy this exercise required to be the most meaningful. It was one thing to share. It was another, entirely, to receive. As tears streamed down our faces, we both felt a breath of fresh air burst into our marriage. We could feel the growing vitality that had been worn down as we lived our lives pouring into our jobs, pouring into our children, and pouring into the lives of others. Our cups overflowed, and our marriage gained strength. Out of the many excellent exercises we participated in on the retreat, this one still remains the most powerful. You should try it sometime.

How can we continue to live gratefully? What relationships are the most strained, and could use a little God-breathed vitality? Who might be the person who needs to hear why others might be thankful for them? Let’s all overflow with thanksgiving! (And not just because we need to wear stretchy pants after we eat too much)

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