This Holy Week, I find myself caught on gratitude. Something about the bursting-through-mud hard work of spring leaves me grasping at contentment as the whole world strives upwards, expanding with new life. I want to be the plant that uncurls itself in the daylight, reaching towards the newly warm sun, and to somehow, simultaneously, be content with life just as it is.
That’s how I ended up sitting at my desk, palms pressed to the cool formica, whispering, “I am grateful for this desk. I am grateful for the work I get to do today.” Life would be so much easier if I could sit still in one place for even a minute, and I think I wish more than anyone that I could find a position at work that kept my gaze from wandering over fences and into other people’s little fields of responsibility. Over time I have adopted a posture equal with guilt and pride, wondering if I am a chronic malcontent, and simultaneously fearful that I will lose my drive to grow and achieve.
With hands pressed to the present location of my work, I tried to root myself in the goodness of this specific place in my life. I guess if someone asked, I would explain that I am trying to be more like a tree: roots stretching deep into the abundance of now, branches stretching joyfully towards forever. And isn’t that Holy Week? Isn’t the mystical rhythm of this week about immersing ourselves in the miraculous wonder of God’s presence among us, while simultaneously reaching for all that is yet to come?
I used to think that gratitude would rob me of joyful anticipation. I thought that it had to be quiet and somber, or something like an apology. So many times, my prayers of gratitude turned into an exercise in shame as I contemplated the remarkable privilege of my life. After these angsty meditations, all I was left with was a vague sense of unremediated guilt and helplessness in redistributing all of the good things I had so clearly failed to earn. Instead of grounded humility, I felt shame and smallness.
I heard a song last week with a simple refrain: “I see the evidence of your goodness / all over my life / all over my life. I see your promises in fulfillment / all over my life/ all over my life.” As I meditated on the verse, I pictured God’s unrestrained goodness smeared in bright colors all over my life. I thought of specific gifts, opportunities, and spaces where I have felt the warm brush of God’s love. I didn’t make lists of things that I knew I should be grateful for, but instead soared over the whole story of my life and marveled at its singularity and uniqueness. I saw it clearly as a gift.
I’m still learning how to live out of this space, but when I do, I feel like a tree in good soil, exploring the deep, wide foundation of God’s specific love. Gratitude is the best possible origin for our striving because it roots us in the proven faithfulness of God and the hope of more goodness to come. Gratitude is courage from the past and hope for the future, and it encourages rhythms of joy that will propel us so much farther than the frustrated slog of discontentment.
I hope that your life feels brushed with joy this week, and that you can see the bright colors of God’s specific goodness in your life. And if the world is more grey to you right now, I hope that you can feel your roots stretching down into faith, giving you the foundation to burst forth with new leaves.