Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What Does Real Gratitude Look Like?

~~I've been thinking a lot today about gratitude. What does it look like? What does it feel like? And noticed that when I am thankful or feeling gratitude I often feel differently depending on what I am dealing with at that time. Does that make sense? I hope.
~~Specifically speaking, I'm talking about God and my gratitude towards Him. I have heard all my life and recently read in the Old Testament about how different groups of people failed in their gratitude towards the Father. I have always been told, in sermons, by my Mom and others around me that we should be thankful in all things. But what exactly does that mean and better yet when you live that out in your life: what does it look like?
~~About 8 years ago I started, in very tiny baby steps, the beginning of understanding of what gratitude really is. It started when I was able -- for the very first time in my entire life -- to really forgive someone for a huge failure to me. We are not talking small potatoes here. We are talking a life long pain that had been inflicted upon me from early childhood. I carried that into my early adulthood. That pain morphed into a lot of negative things. Hatred, anger, apathy, disrespect towards this person, among other symptoms. I carried this burden for a long, and very painful time.
~~God worked a miracle for me in a very short amount of time. Through a book and through some study with my Mom, and through my thoughts during about three weeks, God took my heart and mind and changed a part of myself that I thought I would always carry. When I say it was a miracle I really mean it. I could not possibly have done this for myself, nor could any other human being even start to make that change inside me. A light shown into my heart and mind, and God showed me that He loves this person, He showed me how He loves me and has always loved me. In this time I realized how much gratitude he deserved because I was able to see that who I was becoming was what God had intended all along. And with all this miraculous change inside me, I was able to forgive this very deep hurt. It was and still is true forgiveness to this person. To this day I still do not carry that burden, as this wasn't a temporary change.
~~Fast forward to this time in my life. My growth in the area of gratitude has had it's ups and downs. And, quite honestly, more downs than ups. But I can't ever forget how I was able to forgive and see how God loves me, and how I learned to be grateful to Him. In fact, that is one huge thing in my life that keeps me going in difficult times.
~~Recently Eric and I have gone through a lot of hard times. Most recently has been a string of deaths, of course including the miscarriage. When my dog, Foenix, died I can recall that I was able to "praise Him in all things and circumstances". And I really did. I remember just after my dog took his final breath, and I was sobbing in my husbands arms and over my dog, and I was silently thanking God for all the good in my life, the opportunity to have a dog like Foe, and thanking God that I can count on Him to open another door for us. And I also prayed that He would show me the way and the lessons I needed to learn. It was so hard to not go numb in that moment and completely wallow in my sorrow (no, that came later). I chose to praise God and thank him.
~~Which, of course, brings me to the miscarriage. When I chose to pray and praise God in this time it did feel different than at any other time. And because I didn't immediately feel closer to God I started to question if my gratitude was real. Was I just saying the words or did I mean them?
~~I don't know if I really have fully answered that question. But I did come to some better understanding that I feel is important enough to pass on to whomever chooses to read my blog. I think that I have realized is that gratitude feels differently because situations and reactions are always different. And I think more importantly than getting that "warm-fuzzy" feeling is that I continue to attempt to remain faithful to God in all things. As long as I pursue God in this way, and I am being sincere I know that whatever comes of it isn't going to be failure. God will continue to grow me and, even when I fail at my faith, he never falters and always brings me back.

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