This day is a great gift. If you learn to respond as if it was the first day of your life and the very last day, then you will have spent this day very well. (Brother David Steindl-Rast)
There’s something deep inside me that knows that this is the way God created me to live, yet that’s not how I tend to live my days. During the past four weeks of this gratitude challenge, I’ve spent more time and energy engaged and living life as it is, rather than fussing about “life” as I want it to be. It doesn’t take much for me to dive back into the “glass half-empty” grumpiness instead of the “glass half-full and filling” perspective.
That’s why I need to stay close to my fellow travelers on “the way”, those of you seeking to follow the Spirit of Christ in everyday life. I know that gratitude, joy, hope, peace, and love—all that makes life worth living, are inside jobs. And you can’t beat joy into me anymore than I can trick you into hope. Yet, and here is the wonder of truth as paradox, I also know my inside work is best done in the context of a community of people on the same journey. God very much shows up for us in our personal lives and moments of unbelievable faith connections. And then, always connects us to the larger faith community.
The image of life as a journey has been, and is a powerful metaphor for life. I’ve come, over the past years, to know that what I believe about the journey in my head is only a fraction of the story. It is my practices that ultimately shape me and create the attitudes and values that in the end make life worth living. I love travel shows like the ones Michael Palin did; informative and entertaining; but never a substitute for actually embarking on an adventure of my own. Talking about the journey is not the same as stepping out on the journey.
Gratitude is a practice I value. Without gratitude practiced in my life, my pettiness and kvetching habit will get the best of me. When I’m in the company of my fellow pilgrims, their faith practice of gratitude rubs off on me and encourages me to make better attitude choices. Maybe there are moments I return the favor. Gratitude is a practice we help each other with, and perhaps in the end, we catch a glimpse of the life Jesus promised when lived in the context of thanksgiving for the amazing grace of God every day. Maybe the peace that comes from shaping our fears into thanksgiving settles in my soul for a few moments. (Philippians 4:6-7)
I need people around me who practice gratitude and joy. I want to be with people who knowingly nod to the wit of Wendell Berry who said, “Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.” I need people in my life who are not trying to find some way to numb the pain, but are letting the pain of life shape them as a deeper and deeper connection with God unfolds in the struggle, and audaciously giving thanks when it hurts. People who are willing to acknowledge how fleeting life is, and consequently don’t want to waste time on the stuff, which in the end, doesn’t really matter, are people who challenge me with their courage and wisdom. They’re willing to embrace the wisdom of Psalm 90:12: Teach us how short our life is, so that we may become wise.
Maybe 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 isn’t so much a command as it is an invitation: Be joyful always, pray at all times, be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus. Maybe that’s what I want too, and I need you to help me.
See you Sunday.