That title above is both a big and bold statement. It's easy to say. But not truely easy to live out. I can say that I live my life steep in gratefulness - completely blessed with all that I have been given. But is that really true? It's easy to speak of gratitude for the good life, but what about a crappy life? How is it possible to look at something that has gone horribly wrong in your life and feel grateful that it happened? I am still struggling to find that balance, so I will not pretend to have an answer here.
Just as I was working my ego up into a heated debate with God over my current situation, the AC kicked on and I felt a little tickle brush my skin. It was a strange way for God to remind me to be grateful. True, I was grateful, because I had AC. And even though I couldn't afford to keep it running all day, I had it knowing 80% of the world does not have such a luxury. But my gratitude felt cheap and thin. The pity party was over and I resumed doing whatever it was I needed to do that day, but was I really grateful of my "current situation"? Not so much, and yet it sticks with me like salt to skin on a hot summer day whenever I begin to bemoan about my life.
This past week I was given an all-expense paid trip to Scotland to officiate the wedding of an old friend of mine. I was grateful for the opportunity to go back the motherland. The last time I was in Scotland I was recovering from throat cancer surgery, which I was also profoundly grateful for. Even though I didn't get upgraded on my flight, I was grateful to have been upgraded to a more luxurious and much more expensive rental car when I got there.
Once again, that gratitude sounds a little weak I know, but it made a difference knowing that my greater fear wasn't leg room or lack of screen on the plane, it was driving for the first time on the opposite side of the road. I was grateful beyond words that I never once crashed and not sure I even came close thanks to my rental Mercedes Benz. Had it not been for the AC kicking on, I wonder if I would have been grateful for this car...or for the patience of the other drivers on the road.
As I drove through and wandered about the Scottish countryside, my grateful heart sang of God's wonderous hand in the exquisite automn beauty that surrounded me. And for the good weather and the good health to enjoy it. While I was grateful to go alone, without my wife and kids, I was equally as grateful to have spent the week with a few other families and thier kids. My heart felt alive, and I was grateful for the adventure and the experience.
This gratefulness seemed a bit larger than something as trivial as AC. I would have to be completely void of emotions not to feel gratitude for this wonderful gift. But without having been tickled by the AC that day, would I have truly understood the magnitude of joy and gratitude that filled my heart? I would hope so, but not sure.
The point I am trying to make stems from something Henry Nouwen once taught about being grateful of those things in our past that help us to realize what we are given in the present moment.
How can we live a truly grateful life? When we look back at all that has happened to us, we easily divide our lives into good things to be grateful for and bad things to forget. But with a past thus divided, we cannot move freely into the future. With many things to forget we can only limp toward the future.