Here’s one of my life’s choices. I can either have an attitude of gratitude or an attitude of grouchiness, famous for grumbling. One might lift my heart, the other might pull me toward despair and despondency. One might ease another’s load; one might add to it.
I am not sure when or how the Grinch who stole joy snuck into our home. It took me awhile to recognize that our conversations had lost that gentle tone, that the words spoken by me and by my spouse no longer danced. Too many had become sharp, snarly, unpleasant. Who were these people anyway? What had happened to the couple who had been friends for more years than either of us want to announce to the world.
We needed a reset, a reboot, a start over. I reminded myself that I keep sermon notes for a reason and it’s not to throw in the trash or file away in a notebook. I unfolded the wrinkled page from a sermon before Christmas and read, “Thankfulness is not just an emotion.”
If we are only thankful when we get what we want, then we will live a life of continual disappointment, a too common experience in America where we are urged to purchase, purchase, purchase. And where we tend to eye others, wondering why they seem to do so much better at life than we do. Compare and compete. Purchase and repeat.
We decided to say thank you out loud. We started thanking each other for little things and big things. We began to say thank you even in moments of failed expectations. Then we shared personal sorrows when we don’t meet an expectation from one another or that we place on ourselves.
We talked about God and thankfulness, the immense, unmeasurable, unceasing grace of God. Were we thinking of God as useful rather than worshipping God in all his perfection? Had we somehow mixed God up with a vending machine? Request in, desired answer out.
One recent night as we held hands and said night prayers before yielding to sleep, I said with firmness. “I am done with that. I am done with getting upset when things don’t go as I want. I am done with whining and grumbling, with letting frustration reign over me. I am going to live in gratitude and joy, no matter what.” I rolled over and fell asleep. I woke up smiling.
All the concerns, big and little, remain. But I feel less burdened. I am grateful to be alive. I celebrate coming birthdays for my long time love and for myself. Thankfulness is a decision.
Try it. I am not advising you to act as if the world is heaven now. I am suggesting we lighten our load by dwelling less on what is wrong and more on the joy and promises of our God.
Psalm 100:1-2 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!