Another Look at Gratitude

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. (Ephesians 1:15-16, NRSV)

As I consider the Going the Distance devotionals written since March, I am aware of recurring themes. Consistent with their purpose of helping each of us to navigate the challenges and uncertainties of the pandemic, these reflections proclaim unequivocally that we are not alone. God is with us on this journey. They also encourage us to develop an attitude and practice of gratitude—seeing glimpses of God at work, giving thanks to God for simple joys, keeping gratitude journals that ground us in the goodness of life. I thank God every day for blessings beyond measure.

Recently I have found myself thinking about how I believe God works. My theology is very much “incarnational.” The incarnation, or the embodiment of God in the person of Jesus Christ, sanctifies all of life, including our human lives here on planet Earth (and indeed the Earth itself). The incarnation reveals to us that God works in and through the real world in which we live, in and through real people—some of whom we know and some we do not.

So, I have decided that in addition to thanking God for all that God has given, including thanking God for the people in whom I see God’s love and grace at work, I want to thank the people themselves! I want to thank the people who are instruments of God’s love and care in my life. I want to thank the NUCC people who have adapted to Zoom meetings and persist in carrying out God’s mission through this church.

I want to say thank you to my college roommate with whom I recently talked and said, “You know, there is no other you. There’s no one else I with whom I could have shared that.” I want to thank my three-year-old granddaughter for making me a card and my eight-year-old granddaughter for unanticipated FaceTime visits that brighten our day. I want to thank the Green Justice Team and the Justice Committee for the time and energy they give to making our world better. They inspire me. I want to thank my clergy colleagues for all the ways they have given of themselves to the church and to me—and for the fun we have together.

Thank God for all your blessings. Then remember to say thank you directly to all the people through whom God has worked in your life—to comfort and sustain you, to nurture and inspire you, to embrace you with love and hope and peace that passes all understanding—and can only come from God.

Prayer Focus: Where I am needed.

Prayer: God of love and mercy, I thank you for your loving presence in my life, for all the people who have taught and shown and embodied your love for me, even when I did not realize it at the time. Give me grace to see where I am needed, where I can teach and show and embody your love for someone else each and every day. Amen.