I was in a workshop the other day and the presenter gave us 3 minutes to make a gratitude mandala – a list of anything and everything we’re thankful for, expressed in a circle.
I didn’t have any strategy or order to the things I named. I just jumped in and wrote stuff down until the timer went off. In three minutes of focusing on what I’m thankful for, a pretty amazing number of things poured out of my mind. With more time I would have kept going and going.
You might not be shocked to learn that I don’t do this very often. You know, sit still and name off as many things as I can think of that I am thankful for. I usually spend much more time thinking about things I’m not thankful for. Things I’m personally lacking; things that are wrong with the world.
Can you relate to this?
Of course, thinking about what’s wrong and what’s right in the world is not actually an either/or proposition. Being grateful doesn’t require us to think that everything is good.
Certainly, faith has a lot to do with what’s wrong in our lives and in the world around us. God expects us to grapple with serious problems. Christ speaks clearly about injustice as a cause of righteous anger, and most of the Bible is about God’s work on behalf of those who are suffering. The Gospel is a story of Jesus and his people struggling to bring peace and healing to the world.
So clearly, our awareness of what’s wrong is as important as our awareness of what’s right.
But gratitude is an immense spiritual resource as we confront what’s wrong, within and around us. Naming the good, especially the good we know we don’t deserve and can’t achieve on our own, is an act of both humility and power. It is an antidote to despair.
When we attend to the beauty and brilliance around us, and even the simple pleasures we experience, we make a choice. We are choosing to embrace the fact that the viciousness of the world has not actually won. There are great acts of decency, honor and selfless love happening all the time, even in the midst of violent and desperate times.
In our gratitude, we are deciding to remember and believe that life itself is a gift and a good thing; a thing worth the struggle to live beyond everything that’s going wrong.
So don’t give your heart, soul, mind and strength only to the real and abundant troubles of this life. Think often of the good you have that you don’t deserve and can’t explain; the good that’s happening despite evil, all over the world.
And be grateful!
The Table is a Christian community of transformation:
from greed toward generosity
from violence toward peacemaking
from isolation toward neighborliness
from fear toward faith
Worship Sundays, 5pm, Downtown Davenport, Iowa.