It was a quote that came through my news feed. Where many inspirational thoughts evoked laughter or comfort or fuzzy, warm feelings, this one struck like a bullet.
“If we do not feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?” And that, as our pastor would say it, is a holy kick through the goalposts of life.
Eww. And ouch. If the squirm factor was high, it was because the truth factor was, too, and there was something I ought to be heeding.
Contentment and happiness. What we have, what we don’t and how we are looking at life. How we’re seeing…
In thinking about this, it seems that it really is an eye issue. Or, more accurately, an “I” issue. How am I looking at where I am, what I’ve got and what I can and can’t do? What’s my focus?
In my experience, discontentment and ingratitude are the cataracts of the soul. They cloud the vision, distort the truth and make it hard to think clearly. If I must have Hawaii to be happy, then I’ll miss the fun of a day trip to Chicago or, closer yet, an hour of quietness in my own back yard.
It’s also true, since we’re talking turkey, that ungrateful, discontented people aren’t much fun. Whatever’s inside will come out, you see. If the heart is full of bitterness or ingratitude, be careful. That will splash out, and no one wants to step in that mess.
The flip side, thank God, is true, too. When the heart is full of joy and gratefulness, that will come out as well. Those who look for the blessings in life become great blessings themselves. It’s the ones who choose gratitude in the midst of the hardest trials who’ve learned the secret of joy. And joy will splash onto others.
Learning this principle is freeing and lightening, for when you choose “grateful eyes,” it brings a lightness of spirit and an easing of burdens. The hard things don’t go away, but the way you look at them changes, and they become easier to bear.
One morning as I was about to slip outside and write, I stopped. At the table, two boys in pajamas prepared for breakfast. It was summertime, and the schedule had changed. Now, instead of hours of quiet with no interruptions, my work time was punctuated by slamming doors, frequent questions and children trotting through my office. Extra dirt tracked in from yard and garden testified to their steady presence.
Looking at my summer companions, a great fondness welled up, and gratitude, and so I said it. “I just love you guys. You are a delight and a blessing.”
Stepping outside into morning’s light, I knew. That’s how God feels about me. That’s how He feels about you, and He’d used my boys to remind me. And the day began with a bit of heaven.
I found heaven, too, at the garden center. Spring had come, and it was time for the annual trip to the greenhouse to pick out our vegetables and flowers. And there it was in the aisles.
If nothing else, our great love of and appreciation for beauty tells us that we were made for something beyond this life. “He has set eternity in the hearts of men,” Ecclesiastes says, and I believe it. The green, vital foliage; the wild variety of colors and blossoms; the scent of the loam and smell of earth all ribboned together that day, and soul and spirit quickened. Life and beauty is what the growing things said, the very essence and grandeur of heaven.
We planted tendrils of hope, Little and I, and bits of the eternal, trowels biting deep into soil. For the promise of vine’s fruit; for the lavish, rich colors, I am grateful.
I’ve seen heaven, too, ‘long quiet, country roads. In the early-morning sunshine, I run past greening fields of corn. Our farmers, hardworking, unassuming folk who plant, tend and gather, are feeding the world, and I’m privileged to see it.
Reaching the halfway point of my run, I turn around. And look up. Before me stretches a spectacular canvas of blue. Here and there in grand formation, clouds of pure white have been Velcroed to the sky. The emerald land spreads, rolling, and I remember—one day Christ will return in a cloud. Just like these.
Turning into the lane, heart pumping, chest heaving, I see my home. Flowers shout cheer from a pot on the porch, roses march joyful along the old foundation, and inside are the ones I love best in the world. No Rockefellers, we, with great fame and huge fortune. Just simple folks, loving God and each other.
Here on our three-acre plot, there are blessings. And where you are living, there, too. Yes, you can find blessings, catch traces of heaven if you have the eyes for the looking. Choose contentment and gratitude for what you now have, and you shall be rich indeed. Oh, you will.