By Rev. Becky Brown
I’ve been thinking a lot about gratefulness, positivity, optimism and happiness lately. Maybe that’s because I’ve been reading Diana Butler Bass’ latest book Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks with the Moms Bible Study girls. Maybe that’s because I want to be more grateful, and spend less time worrying or harping on frivolous things that annoy or negatively impact my life (or my family members’ lives). It’s easy to go throughout life with a selfish mindset. All of us do; some of us more frequently than others. It’s easy to get frustrated with those that inconvenience us, make our life more difficult, or allow bad news to keep us down. We are all complainers. Some of us more frequently than others. We also all want everything to go our way. Children and adults alike. When we don’t get what we want or hoped for, we all pitch a fit or throw a pity party. It’s not pretty when children do it (trust me, it’s a daily adventure in our house), but it’s even worse when adults do it. It isn’t becoming, and it isn’t always healthy.
I think we all are on a quest for happiness and fulfillment. We all want our lives to be “in sync” and flow easily. We all want to feel as if we are contributing to this world, and being compensated for our efforts. I mean, who doesn’t wan’t to be happy? Being grateful has more depth than being happy. Happiness is fleeting and elusive, especially when life isn’t being kind to us. Gratefulness happens in the midst of our greatest disappointments, failures, embarrassments, as well as our greatest triumphs, joys, successes, and accomplishments. Gratefulness is an intentional act or practice of the acknowledgment of God’s grace. Grace comes to us in every moment in life - regardless of the emotion that we associate with it.
Diana Butler Bass shares a helpful analogy in her book about the practice of gratitude. She likens our life to a garden. We plant food or flowers in our garden that we hope will provide great purpose in our lives or in the lives of others. Tending a garden requires regular attention and awareness. Gardens that are left alone generally turn into an overgrown mess of weeds, and rarely produce fruit or flower. As the gardener, it is our responsibility to identify weeds and pull them so that they won’t overwhelm our flowers. We can attribute any number of life experiences to weeds. If we don’t find a way to remove the weeds, then our garden suffers. Practicing gratitude includes paying attention to those things that cause us to complain, and then sending them flying in the wind. The very existence of the garden is grace - weeds and all.
I want to be more grateful. I don’t want to be a nit-picker, complainer or whiner. Finding grace in this life yields gratitude, even when I don’t get what I want, or things don’t go my way. God help me, God help us.