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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Gratitude

Gratitude is a funny, mysterious thing. In my experience, it cannot be summoned, manufactured, or provoked. I know there are very sweet, kind, loving people who advocate it as a choice. Just decide, be grateful, make a list, count your blessings. It will be good for you. I am not saying these are bad ideas in and of themselves, but rather that for me, they just weren't enough. I actually ended up feeling guilty when I couldn't quite work up my gratitude, when I couldn't be appropriately grateful for all the good reasons I should be. Aaaaah, should. My least favorite word. I would "should" all over myself and just create guilt, not gratitude, shame, not gratefulness. My focus was off. 

The lists are great, but they have to come from a different heart. For me, my heart needed (and still needs, no doubt) changing, and growing. My focus needed changing. My shoulds needed to go away, give way to grace, acceptance, and freedom. A heart that isn't free CAN'T be grateful, it just can't. 

So, what am I actually, honest to goodness, down to my soul grateful for in this season? My heart is changing, and my focus is most definitely changing. My heart, in actuality has always been free, I just didn't know it. I did not LIVE as if I was free, I did not live as if I had been transformed by the immense love of Jesus, or by the reality of what the gospel did for me. The reasons for why that was the case have actually been written about in many previous blog posts, and it's not the point of this one. The point is, that as my heart began opening, changing, and I could experience the true freedom of living LOVED, without shoulds, my heart automatically did the thanking. My heart automatically was oriented towards this unintelligible grace that was pouring down on me. I could not escape God's pursuit...determined, and unwavering. I could not escape His love, His surrounding me, His forgiveness. His all invasive and transformative mercy. THANK YOU came naturally. Without any shoulds, it came from a free heart, recognizing true freedom, and love, perhaps even for the first time.  "Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." 1 Corinthians 13:7

I cannot begin to tell you the astonishment of walking this life of faith for so many years in what felt like frenzied fruitless shame. It breaks my heart to see how much time my heart needed, how much pursuit, how much insistence. I am not just stubborn in my head, but in my heart too! 
Faith requires a lot from us, trust sometimes, for some of us, seems like utter insanity after what we have lived through and survived. Paradoxically though, it is the ONLY thing that ever has a chance at healing our messed up heart. Without trust there is no love, without faith there is no real hope. Trust and faith, even the smallest amounts, can open the doors to the most amazing love we'll ever know this side of heaven. Gratitude is wonderful, it floods the heart, it pours out of your face with sheer joy. But it comes out of what is in the heart. 
My heart today is full of joy because I am loved. And because the One who truly loves me knows me and has cleansed and forgiven (and will continue to forgive) all that is depraved within me, I am constantly being renewed, cleansed, and loved. Loved, accepted, cleansed, forgiven, given new life, given new hope. And given a life that goes far beyond the tiny life I know now. 
I am grateful to finally grasp that, in my heart. I AM SO grateful to be known, by the only One who will ever truly know me.

Tim Keller talks about this change in focus, in his sermon about the priority of the inner life. Referring to the reality of Jesus' sacrifice, and God's provision and pursuit,(the GOSPEL) he says (I *might* have paraphrased): "To the degree you let it melt your heart, to the degree you allow it to orient your life, you will experience a joy beyond the walls of the world (and from that, Gratitude!!!) When you take the gospel and you apply it to your spirit, it is a Renewed Spirt. Use it for the HOPE in your heart. It is the ultimate love, joy, hope."

Love, joy, hope. I am saying, these, are prerequisites for gratitude. And because He knows this, He floods our hearts, pursues our souls, and sacrifices for us. And I am so grateful today for that unchanging reality. 

"I will give thanks to the lord with my whole heart" Psalm 9:1


I am so grateful I don't need a list. Just awe, wonder, stunned joy. LOVE. Real, ever-lasting, unchanging Love. That's what makes me grateful. 

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