Growing a Grateful Heart

Our pledge campaign theme this year is Grateful Hearts - Generous Lives. I normally think of November as the month of gratitude, but here at St. Mary’s this year, we will be adding an extra month to reflect on gratitude! There is something in the social media world called #30daysofgratitude; for us this year it is more like #61daysofgratitude!

At school this past summer, I took a class called The Theology and Psychology of Human Development. One issue that came up in our readings was gratitude. Psychologically, gratitude is vital to our physical and mental well-being. Theologically, gratitude is central to our faith. The primary act of worship for the Christian community is the Eucharist, which is a Greek word for thanksgiving.

There is a beautiful prayer on page 836 of the Book of Common Prayer that taught me how to recognize and offer gratitude. It starts by reminding us to whom we should be grateful: God. Next, it offers some big picture items for which to be grateful: creation, life, and love, before moving a little closer to home by offering thanks for family and friends, and even the challenges we face that lead to satisfying accomplishments. Then, perhaps the most surprising part of the prayer invites us to offer thanksgiving for our disappointments and failures. Finally, the gratitudes end with the most important thing of all: Jesus - his life, death, and resurrection in which we find our own life raised as well.

Sixteen years ago, I started praying this prayer regularly and it transformed my life, especially that section on offering thanks for disappointments and failures. I would pray a paragraph of the prayer; pause and breathe; name everything that came to mind after praying that section, saying “thank you, God, for...”; and then repeat with the next paragraph. As I did this, I started seeing all of life through the lens of gratitude. Even those things I wished had happened differently! It is still not always easy of course, but it became easier with practice. As we reflect on gratitude this month, I encourage you to take some extra time to think about all of your gifts in life - the good and the bad, the obvious blessings and the challenges, and yes, even the failures and disappointments. Thank God for them. Open your heart in gratitude.