Last night I was in attendance at a church board meeting–not known for being the most Spirit-filled venue on the planet. Before we began our meeting, Fr. Eirik ask us to go around and mention one thing that was going well for us and one prayer request. He began by saying he was “thankful to be thankful.” As we continued around the room, gratitude, joy and thankfulness became themes of how we’re being met by God right now. We then prayed for each other and the gratitude continued to grow. There was a palpable sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our prayers. It was an amazing and energizing way to start a church meeting!
Contrast this picture with another picture, say, of a family meal where someone has the bright idea to have everyone go around and say something they’re thankful for. Undoubtedly there are people who are truly grateful, but there are others (and I often found myself in this category) who feel embarrassed, knowing that gratitude is something we “should do” but often fail at, who then become “the-thing-I-ought-to-be-grateful-for-but-aren’t-feeling-it” person. When you’re in that position, forget about the Holy Spirit–you’re not even able to connect to those you’re sitting around the table with. Expressing gratitude, appreciation and thankfulness is key to connecting and relating to others, including God.
So how do we move from knowing we ought to be grateful to actually doing it?
Though it’s not on the lists of the fruits of the Spirit, gratitude is an important emotion that fosters love, hope, joy, peace, patience, and humility–and thankfulness, of course. Somehow it allows us to connect our left and right brains together to be more wholly engaged persons. And that’s a step in the direction of abundant life.