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Day 85: What is Gratitude?


I mostly think  of my daily gratitude item about which to write in terms of something that made me happy, something I liked, or something I felt glad to see, hear, do, or have. I think that's legit. It's my blog and I'll write what I want!

Then I listened to the newest episode of my favorite podcast today. If you're short on time, head over and start listening around minute 8. Don't keep reading. My spirit animal Father Nathan made me do a double-take when he said this:

Gratitude is an attitude of grace wherein everything is gift. 
Everything that Jesus is going to be doing, saying, being for us is gift. 
What we do in these Holy Week liturgies is just allow him to do that. 
Allow Him to give us the gift!

Most days I find it easy to be grateful for my spouse and kids, our home, friends, family church, food, clothing, iPhones and all of the things we have and enjoy. However, it's much tougher to view everything as a gift from God -- our sorrows, sufferings and challenges as well as our joys. Do I ever step back and view my entire being and all that comes with it as a gift?

It might be only Catholics who can believe suffering can truly be a gift, that it can be redemptive. That's certainly a counter-cultural stance these days, when people will go to great lengths to avoid suffering. I agree that gratitude for suffering is certainly a strange worldview. I want to feel great and happy all the time! I am a terrible sufferer. I can barely function for a day with a sore throat or a headache. Times of uncertainly cause me to worry more and pray less. I admire people who can endure suffering with real hope and an underlying sense of joy. But how often do I do it? Pretty rarely.

I sway from one end of the spectrum to the other: "My sufferings are so terrible! How can anyone relate?" Or guilt for thinking such small things could actually count as sufferings. "Don't I know how great I have it? Sheesh." None of our joys or sufferings are too big or too small for God, though. All of that is a gift to us that we can turn right back and give to Him.

I can't really say anything that hasn't already been said about gratitude. About how everything is a gift. Not just my nice, big, warm house. Not just my beautiful and healthy kids and my loving, hard-working spouse. Not just great relationships with our families. Not just my helpful and inspiring friends or anything else that is good in my life and makes me happy.

What about the hunger I feel on fast days? A gift. The illness that allows me to rejoice at the first sign of healing. A gift. Walking through a difficult time with a friend or family member. A gift. I have a great idea and it gets shot down. A gift. The day doesn't go according to my plan. A gift.

I can certainly try harder to experience true gratitude daily, having realized that my life is a gift and that my goal isn't to be as comfortable as possible here, but to get to Heaven for eternity. In just a few hours we get to celebrate Easter and its corresponding joy. Our lives are gifts. We are here because of and for Easter. I sincerely hope that whatever joyful or difficult times you are experiencing now, you can take comfort in being a beloved son or daughter of God. He has given you a gift.

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