A little while ago I was hurtling down the freeway, rushing to a meeting. My thoughts were consumed by the discussions I would soon be having. My mind also rushed to the week ahead, wondering where I could carve out time to meet with a friend. In between this I worried. I worried about all the things there are to worry about in life. In my head was a torrent whirlpool, circling around all the rocks in my life.
As I changed lanes on that busy freeway, my eye caught the outline of the mountains around me. “What a beautiful place and what a lovely day,” whispered into my turmoil. As I embraced that thought, the whirlpool dissipated and a cool stream soothed my mind. I slowed down, relaxed my hunched shoulders and lived in the moment. The sun was shining, the sky was a brilliant blue and the mountains stood like majestic sentinels surrounding the peace and glory of God.
My heart soared in instant praise to my creator. A joy, for no specific reason, filled me. I breathed in life. In that moment I truly lived.
I have discovered that this kind of joy and peace comes at a price:
- I have to lay down my worries.
- I have to forfeit my list of “things I wish to be different”.
- I have to give up my need to feel important by being constantly busy.
- I have to be grateful for what I have.
When I am able to embrace gratitude as a daily, moment-by-moment choice, I find the reward to be a deep reservoir of joy and peace.
Here are some exercises I use to help me embrace gratitude:
- I focus on the here and now. When I obsess about the past I have a tendency to be hard on myself and think about all the things I could have done better. When I endlessly think about the future I feel anxious to ‘get it right’. But when I focus on the present, I am in control and can be grateful for God’s very near presence to help me.
- I focus on what I have instead of what I don’t have. I can so easily get stuck on all the things that I want. That makes me live in the future, always striving for something else and never quite reaching it. Focusing on what I have now makes me grateful and brings peace.
- I savor the joy of the moment. I force myself to take note of now. I literally slow down and smell the roses. I try to take note of the colors around me, the sounds, the smells, the beauty of God in the people around me.
- I try to share my positive experiences with others. When my family and friends share in my joy, my experiences are somehow made fuller and I find myself being more grateful.
I struggle with the above points, as I imagine most people do. We live in a culture that moves at a frantic pace, always striving for the next thing. Regardless of my struggle, I make a concerted effort to exercise this way of life. I do this because the scriptures tell me to.
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:17
Question: In what way does a spirit of gratitude help you?