(Lead me Lord,) by grace to gratitude
Living in a posture of gratitude may be the single-most elemental thing a person can do not only to relate well to God, but also to find the peace and joy which God desires to give you. Moving from grace to gratitude is a natural progression. Once we have experienced the depth of God’s grace, we turn in glad admiration, wonder, and gratitude to our Creator in order to “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”
While the call to be grateful and give thanks happens throughout scripture (Psalm 107 comes to mind) there may be no more eloquent invitation to living this way than what we find in Paul’s letter to the Colossians:
[Col. 3:12-17 NRSV] As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
In that brief passage Paul calls the church to be thankful twice and “with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.” I am indebted to brother David Steindl-Rast for much of what I think I know about gratitude in the life of faith. (See his book Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer). As a monastic, brother David awakes each day and the first prayer is a prayer of gratitude — that he awoke. We can easily take for granted the miracle of life itself. Beginning our day with a simple prayer of thanksgiving that we have been given another day in which to live in wonder and joy at the surprises which God provides is a fundamental discipline which leads us to a deeper discipleship.
The way to cultivate the awareness of surprises which lead to gratitude try this simple discipline. Expect nothing. Allow yourself to be joyfully surprised that the water in the shower is warm, that the lights come on when you flip the switch, that your car starts when you turn the key. Rather than taking these things for granted, allow yourself to tune into the many little things which really are astonishing if you think about it. I am typing this devotion on a computer which does what it does for reasons I do not fathom. It will be delivered to you over a vast network of servers and arrive on your electronic devices in 23 US states, and four countries. These are truly wonders to me and if I quit taking them for granted I am immediately filled with a sense of awe at how good my life actually is.
We pray as pilgrims in the season of Lent that God lead us by grace to gratitude. That grace is made clear to us in God’s choice to suffer greatly at our hands, to be wounded, and to be killed. God’s love for us is a costly love and that cannot be ignored in the face of the events of Holy Week which is coming soon enough. And yet, for all of our brutality and deathliness, God’s love triumphs over death. The tomb of Jesus’ death becomes the womb of his resurrection.
[First Corinthians 15:54-55 NRSV]
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
We are amazed by a grace that claims and saves wretches like us, and in response we live as God’s grateful people. That gratitude is not only the proper attitude in terms of responding to God’s many blessings, it is also the key to our living a joyful and peaceful life as disciples of Christ.
Daily Collect: Gracious Lord, all creation looks to you for its food in due season, and you, in abundant grace, open your hands and satisfy the desires of every living thing. We marvel that you keep providing bountifully and that you do not resent the need to give us so much. So for our part, we commit today to live in gratitude. We will choose to be surprised at how our lives are filled with good things — to notice them, and to give you thanks for them. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.