The "why" of gratitude...
Some people turn the most mundane tasks into art.
And some people just get it done.
I’m a get-it-done kind of gal.
My friend Lisa goes for a walk and notices every tree branch and every puddle along the way, taking photos that make you half expect to hear a squirrel scuttle by as you look at them.
I take a walk and track how far I went, how fast, and how many people I passed. Guess which one of us is better at practicing gratitude?
Since I started my little gratitude journal, I’ve noticed that I tend to approach it like it is one more item on my to-do list. Quick, think of something to be grateful for and write it down! And sure, that simple act has helped me to appreciate God’s blessings and plant seeds of joy in my heart. But I’m learning that there is so much more to be gained from practicing gratitude, if only I slow down enough to notice.
Slow. Dallas Willard once advised a soul-sick pastor that “you must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” He saw hurrying as an obstacle to all that feeds the soul. And if you ask me what I think, I would agree wholeheartedly. If you ask me what I do, I would confess that I live in the land of hurry.
Slow doesn’t get things done. Slow means less items on my to-do list checked off and therefore less productivity, which somehow in my twisted mind means I’m worth less too. So I hustle and I do and jot down a few things I’m grateful for, but I never slow down and notice – really notice – that thing I’m grateful for and why I am grateful for it in the first place.
I’m trying to change that.
I’m adding another step to my gratitude journal practice. When I notice something that I’m grateful for, my next step is to ask myself why? and then to take a beat and answer that question fully, deeply, rolling it over in my mind and marinating in the wonder of it. The beautiful thing is that when I do this I find myself not only more grateful and more joyful, but also a little more present in the moment.
It turns out that gratitude is not just a doorway to joy, but a doorway to being present in your own life. A doorway to hearing your heart whisper something that you need to hear and maybe even hearing God speak a word to your hurried soul. I need that.
The other day I wrote in my gratitude journal that I was thankful for a conversation I had had with a friend. I had run into her unexpectedly and enjoyed the opportunity to be an encouragement to her. I felt happy, so I added it to my list. But when I stopped to ask myself why? I realized that I was thankful for that encounter for some deeper reasons. I discovered that I appreciated the unique role that she was playing in my life, and I found that I was delighted to encourage her because it affirmed to me again that God has gifted me in that regard. I realized that I need to be thankful for that gift instead of wishing that He had given me a different one (why, oh why, couldn’t I have been born a singer?). I felt a whisper of God’s pleasure that I had used my gift to bless another. What a shame if I would have missed that!
It’s too easy to go through our days so distracted by activity and to-do lists that we never stop and examine our hearts…let’s ask ourselves what we’re feeling…and then actually talk to God about it. Even a girl with a gratitude journal can turn thankfulness into one more box to check instead of a doorway to deeper things.
So, my encouragement to you this week is to not only notice what you are grateful for, but also to ask yourself why? and to let that question guide you a little deeper into your own heart and the heart of God.
Peace, my friends,