Everything good in my life has been given to me.
My life itself. My wife. My children. My friendships. My body, with its unique physical abilities. My mind, with its unique and often odd ways of putting thoughts together. My ethnicity, with its benefits and shortcomings. My gender. My nationality. My time in history. My planet. My God.
As received things, there are only two appropriate responses to having them: gratitude and nurture.
We start with gratitude, the grace-attitude, the thankful attitude for receiving grace. Every breath is a grace. Everywhere and at all times, we are surrounded by gifts. We live a received life. And so we gratefully express our love to the giver of each gift in ways that are appropriate for each gift and to each giver.
But we don’t stop with gratitude. We care for and nurture what has been given to us. If it’s a child, a garden, a marriage, our bodies, our possessions, our faith, our neighborhood, our abilities, the democracy we live in, we don’t just smile and say, “Thanks,” for it. We put into each what it needs in order to thrive.
To not nurture a child, a friendship, a marriage, a faith, an ability is to show our lack of gratitude for it or our love for the Giver. The same is true when we don’t care for our bodies, our homes, our planet, our political system, our church, our cars, our whatevers.
Always grateful, always care-full. These are the twin responses of the truly grace-full.
How do we get this into ourselves? Into the way we go about living our lives?
Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. Set a timer for two minutes. Then, on the left side of the paper, write down things you are thankful for as quickly as you can. If it pops into your head, write it down and move on to the next item. Hopefully, you are surprised by some of the things that came to mind.
Next, across from each item write one thing you can do to nurture it. You may want to write 20 ways to nurture the first item and then never get to any of them. But if you write down the first and easiest way to nurture each item, you’re much more likely to do so.
For example, if I wrote down that I’m thankful for the music of U2. I might nurture that gratitude by listening to at least one song by them each week. Now, I could add to that “go to their next concert” or “join the fan club” or any of a bunch of things. All of them might be good, but they will complicate matters and pull my focus away from the one thing needful. Now, I may want to return to the list later on and add another way of nurturing what I’m grateful for