This past week was Thanksgiving, so I’ve been reflecting and reading on topics of gratitude and stewardship, being thankful for all that we have and putting it to use in ways that demonstrate that gratitude. I’ve been enjoying reading Christine Pohl’s most recent brilliant work, “Living Into Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us” and the first section examines the practice of gratitude.
Reading about gratitude I find myself thinking of all of the ungracious people I have encountered in my life, and in this work, and saying internally “I wonder what it would be like if we could just get this figured out and fixed! I’m so tired of people being so ungracious towards one another.”
In sweeps my own ingratitude, my own wistfulness and searching for something more, better, or different. It is good and right to have a dream and a vision for a better future but when these things cost us a heart of gratitude or impoverish our ability to give thanks, we fall prey to what Kevin Rains (Vineyard Central Church) calls “spiritual pornography . . . creating a mental fantasy of a perfect place or people and not recognizing the good things all around me.” This world and the relationships and experiences we have here was not created merely as an object of our pleasure and consumption.
There is no perfect community.
There is no perfect ministry or outreach.
There is no perfect family.
There is no perfect church.
There is no perfect relationship, or marriage, or friendship.
There is no perfect spiritual life.
So, in a season where we all consume more than we ought in food, let us not fall victim to the mentality that all of this around us is created for our hedonism. Conversely, let us remember that having a heart of gratitude is not created by ignoring the presence of dysfunction, shortcomings, and disappointments present in our selves, our communities and our relationships. Instead, let us realize that true joy comes even in the midst of the disappointments, remembering how much good we have in comparison to all that is bad, and embracing the ways we always have much more over which to celebrate than to complain.
What are you grateful for?