Monday, September 20, 2010

The Discipline of Gratitude

Each day one of my goals is to list the special joys that have come to me that day in a prayer of gratitude.  This practice began as a written prayer, but lately I have prayed this prayer of thanksgiving as the last conscious thoughts that I have before going to sleep.  In my thanksgiving prayer,  I list each unique blessing that has come to me that day.  For instance, one recent prayer contained a list of these seven items that had special meaning for me on that day:

  • an unusual quiet solitary time at the end of a very hectic day
  • the safe arrival of our son’s weekend guest
  • an unusually productive day that had gotten off to a slow start
  • the feeling of peace that my wife had found at the end of the day after a series of misfortunes earlier in the day
  • a late afternoon bike ride that helped clear my mind and left me with a feeling of peace
  • a wonderful meal eaten later than usual with good conversation and some good wine given to us by a friend
  • a great sense of serenity as I brought the day to a close

None of the things may seem unusual, but for me the day had been especially trying.  I had prayed at the beginning of the day for joyful acceptance of whatever God sent to me that day, but, though I had tried to find joy in the events of the day, I was disappointed that the day hadn’t turned out as I had hoped.  Throughout the day, I had sensed God speaking to me, telling me not to give in to irritation or frustration, to keep my energy focused on being present for my wife and trying to meet her needs rather than insisting on my own way.  I had done that, and, in the end, she was at peace and filled with joy, though earlier she, too, had been frustrated by the way the day had turned out.  Suddenly, I realized that God was giving me joy that had been delayed throughout the day and that if I had simply taken the day in stride, offering the unplanned mishaps and delays as joyful offerings to God, I could have had that same joy all day.  God was working to transform me from the selfish person I wanted to be into the disciple of Jesus that God wanted me to become.

During my bike ride, I sensed God speaking to me, telling me that I had accomplished much, even as I was asking forgiveness for allowing anger to enter my heart because of the way the day had gone.  God reminded me that the act of keeping my frustrations from boiling over into angry outbursts was an achievement for me, allowing my wife to experience the joy that I wanted her to have despite her frustrations with the way the day had gone.  When I returned home, my wife was smiling and looking forward to the meal with our son and his guest who would be staying with us for the weekend, and I knew that God was at work in her life.   What a wonderful gift it was to end the day so filled with joy and to let go of the bitterness over the day’s disappointments.

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