“Gratitude precedes the miracle.”
The first time I read that I thought the words implied some sort of magic formula: if you live a life of gratitude, more good things will come your way. And while I agree with that interpretation on one level…living with a spirit of gratitude does open my heart to more good things, to seeing more good in life…there’s another, deeper meaning.
Living with gratitude precedes the miracle that occurs within me. Maybe “miracle” is too strong a word, on some days. On others, it’s the perfect term to describe what happens to a spirit filled with thankfulness.
Did you know, I’ve learned when you’re filled with gratitude for whatever is happening in your life, you literally can’t feel anger?
There are things that deserve anger…injustices and wrongs that need to be addressed. And I’m not addressing those here.
I’m talking about life on a very personal level, and I’ll acknowledge that I haven’t experienced tragedy to the degree that some people live with. But gratitude doesn’t erase the negatives from my life. Instead it helps me see beyond those, to focus on what I want to emphasize.
No one is unscarred, unscathed by the hurts of living, growing, suffering, dying, and waking up each day to start all over again.
I’ve loved and lost. I find the best way to acknowledge those I’ve lost is to remember the best of them, all the good. I celebrate that.
I’ve been amazed and I’ve been disappointed. I’ve lost some battles and I’ve had success.
I’ve learned when I have setbacks, low points, it helps to reframe. And that brings me back to gratitude. What can I pull out of each situation that feeds a spirit of thankfulness?
Let me tell you, it’s not always easy. I’m the optimistic sort, and more likely to be up than down. But even so, some days are hard. Some days grace and gratitude are not my default settings. That just means I’m human, normal, susceptible to the blows of life. Who isn’t?
I’ll admit: I wonder if I could rise to this challenge if I faced the burdens some people face? I hope I could. And though the externals of my life look good, it is far from perfect, far from easy.
Sometimes I have to stomp around and talk out loud, pace and rant a bit before I can right myself. That’s healthy and even necessary. You have to acknowledge the hole you’re in before you can begin to climb out. When you’re wounded, you have to stop the bleeding before you can begin to heal.
But after…after…I can reflect, and look for the rays of light.
And when I can see, even on the most basic level, that I’m blessed, I’m fortunate, how can I be anything but thankful?
And thankfulness brings me to joy.
Did you know, I’ve learned when you’re filled with joy for the blessings in your life, you literally can’t feel fear?
Joy quiets the fear that comes from the question. “What if…?” It’s so easy to find the negatives, when I’m afraid of the outcome.
And joy leads me outside myself, inspires me to reach out, be generous, look for ways to share with others.
At the deepest level, a spirit of gratitude doesn’t lead me to compare myself with others and feel smug when my situation seems better. A spirit of gratitude leads me to help in a literal way, to have a gracious and humble attitude toward those who struggle with greater challenges than any I face.
It’s a full circle miracle. When life gets me down, I’m moody, easily hurt, feel sorry for myself.
But then, gratitude creeps in, soothes my heart, eases my hurt, shines a light on my complaints. It’s a life cycle that I see on a regular basis.
The spirit of gratitude…it really does precede the miracle. And that has made all the difference.
“If anyone would tell you the shortest, surest way to all happiness and all perfection,
he must tell you to
make a rule to yourself to thank and praise God for everything
that happens to you.
It is certain that whatever seeming calamity happens to you, if you thank and praise God for it,
you turn it into a blessing.
If you could work miracles,
therefore, you could not do more for yourself
than by this thankful spirit.
It heals and turns all that it touches into happiness.”