I made a new friend this month. Her name is Gratitude. For years she was the dusty old acquaintance to whom I paid a cursory nod on all the appropriate occasions—anniversaries, birthdays, graduations. But I never invited her into my daily life, and certainly not into my sorrow. Not until recently.
I picked up a book about Gratitude, and to my surprise discovered that I barely knew her. In all my years, I had hardly scratched the surface of all that she is and all that she can be.
So I resolved to get to know her. Intentionally, this time. I began to welcome her into my life. At first, it was just in the peaceful moments. I took her along on my morning jog, and discovered that she brought the world to life around me. She made the sunshine brighter, the wind cooler, the trees grander. She made me notice tiny blessings I’d never seen before. Made me feel the strength of my body, able to run, the clarity of my mind able to think, the grace of my God evident all around me.
I took her out for coffee dates and explored her with fresh eyes. And she became to me a most pleasant companion. And then one day, she surprised me by showing up in the midst of my appointment with Pity, when I hadn’t invited her. She tapped me on the shoulder as I was rehearsing my complaints, and at first I wanted to tell her to go away. “Come back another time,” I wanted to say. “This is no place for you.” But she looked at Pity so sternly that I suddenly realized Gratitude can be fierce. She was determined to stay, and at last Pity gave way to her. Then, with a smile, Gratitude introduced me to her very best friend. “This,” she said softly, “is Joy. She loves to come along with me everywhere I go.”
I liked Joy immensely, and I hoped she’d never leave. But I had a secret, and I knew that eventually it would jeopardize my friendships with Gratitude and Joy. You see, I was in a partnership—I had been for years—with two very strong tyrants. They burst into my home whenever they pleased, several times a day, and they moved me at their will, and I believed I was powerless against them. One was loud and rude and he called himself Anger, and the other was monstrously large and named himself Pride.
They loved to visit me when the house was a wreck and the kids were a mess and dinner was burnt on the stove. And always after they left, they sent Regret and Sorrow in their wake. One day when I was lost in their grip, I noticed a spark of sunshine on the floor, so small I had to squint to see it. It climbed into my palm and when I held it to my face, I was shocked to see that it was Gratitude, shrunken so that she was scarcely larger than a dandelion. “How dare you try to enter here!” I screamed into her face. And with Anger and Pride rallying around, I yelled, “Get out! Get out! I don’t want to see you now!”
At last she spoke in the faintest voice, and this is what she said: “If you bid me go, I will go. But I must warn you, I have to take Joy with me. But,” she said, and I thought her voice grew, “If you want me to stay, I will fight for you.”
I winced in dismay for my heart was torn. “But you are so small,” I finally said. “How can you ever win?”
“You must feed me,” she said. “And hold me. And welcome me. And if you do, I will grow so vast that I promise I will outshine these monsters holding onto you. I,” she said firmly, “am very powerful.”
Gratitude had enchanted me, and amused me, and even surprised me. But that day she rescued me. That day I learned that Gratitude can do more than just dance in the sun—she can wage war in the darkness. “Yes,” I told her when Anger and Resentment had fled and Joy again was holding my hand. “Yes, Gratitude, my dearest friend—you are very powerful, indeed.”
A response to all I am learning from Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s book, Choosing Gratitude.
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