“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.” —Maya Angelou
I’m in a season of abundance right now, a season where it feels like the blessings are flowing and my rose-colored glasses are securely fastened and the thankfulness wells up inside me at every turn. It’s a fun season to be in, when gratitude comes as naturally as breathing.
But is this really what gratitude is? Is it just feelings of thankfulness in the easy times? Is it a veneer we use to coat our eyes and protect our hearts in the hard times? Or perhaps a self-deprecating reminder to be thankful for what we have, because others have so much less abundance and so much more trouble. Words we say because we’re supposed to be thankful for this.
No, gratitude is gritty. It is daring to walk out on a limb, hopeful for what this could mean, and fearless of tripping, falling, losing. It is not mere thoughts we think or words we utter when we need to stay positive in the hardship or awake in the mundane.
Gratitude is hard-fought and hard-won; we dig in our heels and we stand our ground and we fight the lies that tell us others have more to be grateful for, so let them be the grateful ones.
It’s not a glaze we drizzle on our troubles, a trick of the light that makes the broken look shiny and new. Gratitude necessitates a move, a commitment, a pulse, a choice. It requires us to lift the truth of our blessings above our heads and hold it there until our muscles are weak and shaking, and the tears are flowing from the grubby beauty of it all.
We can be grateful for the small things—the newly working dishwasher, the cozy blanket, the dishes in the sink that sing a lullaby of dinner around the table. Sometimes, when the darkness is blinding, all we can do is be grateful for the small things. But gratitude itself is no small thing, no easy task. Filtering through the muck and the mundane leaves our feet stuck in the mud, our hands caked in filth. But when we find that gem, we rush over to the water and let it flow over our prize, and in the process, we are washed of our grime and we hold our treasure in clean hands.
We can live out gratitude only if we’re willing to leave the comfort of our mud pits. We can let the scales fall from our eyes, rose-colored or mud-colored or graying with the passing of hard times, and we can walk forward claiming and celebrating the beauty of the gem.
Jumping for joy over the gems we have frees us from needing more. Gratitude enables us to see what’s entrusted to us and to care for that instead of what we wish we had. A current home instead of a bigger house. A husband instead of child. A friend instead of a husband. A job instead of the job.
Gratitude is not a formula for getting our wants, a sequence of events that says if we say thanks for what we have, we’ll be allowed to have more. Maybe we will . . . maybe we won’t.
Gratitude is a choice that turns our enough into our abundance.