19Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:11-19
I follow the blog called “The Real Full House” written by “Danny”, a pseudonym for this man who lives the reality of that 90’s television show, Full House. This week he shared his thoughts on gratitude in response to his week and the connections he made.
Last weekend, he met an old friend at a concert who knew “Lisa”, his spouse who had died after a bout with cancer. They got to talking and his friend when asked how he was, said that he was 96% good and 4% needed working on. While saying those words, Danny’s friend teared up saying that Lisa’s death had taught him that that can change at any time.
Danny continued to reflect on those words over the weekend and realized that for a long time while they lived through his wife’s struggle with terminal cancer and then subsequently experienced the grief of her death, those numbers for him were reversed where 96% of his life needed working on and only 4% was good. But even in the midst of the illness, on the advice of others who had experienced their own tragedies, he and his wife tried to recognize the good as difficult as it was in the midst of facing death.
He then went onto say that now that his life was about 96% good, he found himself focusing on that 4% that needed work instead of all that was going so well in his world. It was a good reminder to him of all that he has to be grateful for.
I was listening the other day to a podcast that talked about the research on gratitude and you’d be surprised to hear that it shows that people who are grateful have “stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure on average, fewer symptoms of illness, less anxiety and depression. [Those who are grateful are] less bothered by aches and pains when they are sick…[and they] also sleep better on average… Many recoverbetter from traumatic events and they seem to have better relationships with people close to them.”
So the question was asked, if it’s so good for us, how come people are not more grateful.
Good question, right?
One of the key components to gratitude is thinking that you are the joyful recipient of something that you don’t really deserve. It seems that the catch about gratitude is that one needs to recognize that we are dependent on something outside of ourselves for what we have in life.
Being grateful can be difficult because we are desperate to believe that we are masters of our fates and that not much is out of our control. To top that off, we think that by in large we are good people who deserve only good things.
It is too easy to congratulate ourselves when things are going right by saying that we are doing all the right things. It is so easy to blame others when things are going wrong saying that we are blameless. It is a whole lot more difficult to recognize that all that we have and all that we are is a gift from God on whom we are truly dependant.
I’m not sure that those other 9 lepers were not grateful. I’m pretty sure they were.
I wonder though if they really understood to whom they were dependant on for their very life. I wonder if they might not have felt that they deserved to be healed.
But to me, that begs the question. If only those that deserve to be healed are, then what of the others that aren’t so lucky and are not healed? Does that mean they don’t deserve to be healed?
I’m pretty sure we don’t want to say that God is doing that: picking and choosing the winners and losers based on our merit.
This foreigner must have come back because he recognized in Jesus that God was present in human flesh here to be with him. He must have recognized that God was there and present to him even though he was ‘other’.
Perhaps this foreigner recognized who Jesus was because he or she had nothing and yet was still healed. Perhaps this foreigner could recognize his complete dependence on God because he knew that according to the rest of the world, he didn’t deserve anything.
The last thing anyone accompanying Jesus that day would have expected was that a Samaritan would recognize Jesus was as Lord. Yet it was a Samaritan, probably the last person expected to see God.
You see, even the experts who research gratitude say that it isn’t so much about listing the things we are grateful for. Gratitude is a deep recognition of who we are in our failures and our flaws. It is recognizing that the something or someone outside of us has more control than we’d like to admit.
Gratitude follows when we remember that the God of all creation loves us as we are. While we may not deserve it all the time, and while life might now always turn out exactly how we want it to, we can be grateful for what we have recognizing that we don’t have us much control as we’d like to think.
As one author put it,
“gratitude is not the same as giving thanks. It comes from a deeper place that knows the story could have ended differently, and often does. Gratitude is surviving the worst thing you can imagine…and realizing that you are still standing.
Gratitude helps you cheer the news that the lump is not malignant, and helps you to be grateful when you learn, as my friend Diana did, that her husband was not in any pain from his cancer, and could come home from the hospital to die with the cat on his bed, his dogs underneath it and family all around.”
At times it is difficult to find the silver lining in many of those things that drag us down and wonder if it is worth continuing to put one foot in front of the other. And yet there can be this realization that brings us to our knees recognizing that life is a gift from God and we are humbled and we are grateful to be a part of it.
I think it was this kind of feeling that moved that Samaritan to return to Jesus, to prostrate himself at Jesus’ feet and giving thanks.
We have a ritual in our family of beginning and ending the day with a blessing. One of many blessings that we use in the morning is the words, “God loves you and I love you and it’s going to be a wonderful day. And even if it isn’t, God will be with you.”
I kind of think that that is what gratitude is. The recognition that in all of who I am and in all of what happens to me whether I deserve it or not, God loves me and God is with me.
As Thomas Merton says, “To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise the goodness of God.” (Reis, flunking sainthood, p. 109-110).
Sola Deo Gloria. To God alone the glory.