I just came off a weekend filled with the Lord (it was an in-town church retreat), so I may be coming off from a spiritual high. Please note that I'm never in the business of delivering holy content or an attempt at trying to sound like a college girl with "Jesus lover" in their instagram bio. I do think in this day and age of never ending complaints and negativity, some level of practical positivity is important. It's also important to note that enthusiasm based on nothing vs. reflection based on factual positives are two different things.
One key word I took away from this weekend, which unsurprisingly was themed "Breakthrough" was gratefulness. It's something I lack a lot - and as much as I'd like to, I don't think I'll blame the current atmosphere of society or how I was brought up. My family is actually very grateful-oriented and my parents, especially my mom, constantly reminds me to be grateful of the smallest of things. I've typically resorted to being super grateful in the heat of the moment, but as with all things, nothing becomes natural unless it is practiced. So I've added on to my long list of routines (my morning routines, my workout, the meals I eat, my daily word reading, listening to a certain playlist on my commute) the time to write 10 specific things I'm grateful for in a composition book. I'm going to share the first 10 of this list at the bottom of this post just to kick it off, but I intend to keep the rest private just so that the motivation doesn't solely come from a need to show it to the world. This is actually something else I've been focused on recently - whether or not all my actions lately have only been for a reaction - but more on this later.
I fully expect (and perhaps I shouldn't have high expectations, which often results to a low level of gratitude) this exercise to be highly beneficial. I've done similar exercises in isolation, not as a daily practice but as single instances at other church retreats or at some form of leadership training. The reason why it's so crucial to be grateful, aside from the core reason of the acknowledgement of the Lord and his doings, is its ability to serve as a powerful reminder that there's always so much going for someone outside of the issues in front of them. As human beings, it seems commonplace to hyper concentrate on the matters that we currently face, become obsessed with the smallest of problems, without properly measuring all that has occurred before and is concurrently occurring with the burdens we face at the moment. It's quite easy to be absorbed into a mindset of "this is never going to work" or "why does this always happen to me" and even easier to forget all the things that have worked to bring you to this moment and all the phenomenal things that quite might've only happened to you. When things are good it's just a breeze and when things go wrong it feels like a hurricane with a your-size radius. In summary, being grateful is a practice that serves as a powerful reminder for all that has gone well to shoo away whatever "could go wrong" now or in the future.
Much more importantly, it is what I find to be the founding block of our faith and how God works. It has nothing to do with our actions and all has to do with His grace along with the plan and vision that He has in store. That's what's so fascinating about the human psyche - when things go right, it's always our own feat and our own ability, sprinkled with a bit of "luck" and "timing" and when things go wrong, it's someone else, society, or often times God. When we do something well, outside of company reflections or award ceremonies, we rarely question "why." Sure we may write memoirs on our successes or go onto explain to large crowds about what made the success the way it is, but in the heat of success, we rarely think about what led to that success and instead focus on the success itself or the consequences of what the success will bring. On the contrary, when things go wrong, we immediately jump to blame something or someone, because it's so easy to do so. It must be society, it has to be our race or gender, I bet it's whoever hates me, or perhaps it's the being in control of it all.
Being grateful allows us to free ourselves from this mentality and enables us to let go - it empowers our mind to understand that above all is the Lord, and it is only He that gets us to accomplish the things we accomplish and ultimately leads us to our successes (and even failures, which we can only see as negative, but He's using to shape according to his plan). If we continue to live in the near-sighted perspective of effort, luck, and timing, we can never be free of this idea that things are beyond our control and everything must be someone or something's fault. But if we choose to accept that our very existence is made with purpose, and every step of the way the Almighty is placing the stepping stones we must take to continuously become who He had in mind, then it becomes "obvious" that we must be in fact grateful of every single moment and aspect of our lives. As mentioned before, being grateful is truly at the core of the gospel - we deserve death. That's the only fact that really matters. Jesus was sent to forgive that perfectly deserving (whether we believe this is true is actually irrelevant) punishment and offer us the ultimate gift of everlasting life. That's where we must start - the idea that we received something, and not just anything but THE thing, when we didn't deserve it and we must be forever grateful of that grace. Anything after that is the icing on the cake and shockingly there seems to be a mountain of that icing coming our way the more we choose to acknowledge all the things we can be grateful for.
I assure you that once the spiritual high wears off (it already did today), I'm going to degrade my gratefulness and complain about the smallest things and constantly wonder why I'm a certain way when the dude next to me has it better. But, with the little bit of positivity I'm starting to build, I certainly hope that this exercise allows me to recognize how much I have been undeservingly blessed with and have that enhance my ability to spread a similar perspective to others. I highly encourage you to try the same with me and see where it takes you.
My list for 3/21 -
I can speak English fluently
I was born with a mom and a dad
I can walk
I was born into a Christian family
I have friends
I have a job
I don't have loans
I have a place to sleep in
I'm (relatively) tall
I know how to read & write