Gratitude: UR Doing it Wrong
Sometimes you guys tell me that I’m being too self deprecating when I say that I’m spiritually inept. Behold: I can’t even figure out how to be grateful.
The theme in my prayer life over the past few weeks has been gratitude. Over and over again I kept feeling prompted to work on cultivating an “attitude of gratitude,” so I jumped right in. And it was easy. As a modern American, living in a kind of luxury never before seen in human history, the words just rolled right off my lips.
“Thank you, Lord, for hot water! For abundant food! For easy access to medicine! For a cozy bed! For soft sheets! For my air conditioner! For a reliable vehicle! For my crock pot!…” and so on. It sounds like this should be a spiritually fruitful exercise, right? Nay. Here’s the problem:
If you were to ask me in an unguarded moment to complete the sentence “My joy comes from the ________,” my answer would probably be “air conditioner.” I’m not quite there with Brother Yun, who was so detached from worldly comforts that he could find great peace and delight in the Lord, even after being tortured and thrown in a metal box. If an evil regime hostile to Catholic bloggers were to overthrow the government tomorrow and start a reign of persecution, I’m not sure I would be ready to risk losing all my nice luxuries for the sake of the Gospel. When our refrigerator was broken for a few days, I was tempted by the sin of despair. In other words: I’m really attached to my material possessions.
(On a side note, this is why I’ve often thought that Gnosticism is a tempting heresy. In many ways it would be easier to cultivate an attitude of hating all material things than to find the balance of appreciating them but not over-valuing them.)
So, long story short, my recent efforts at gratitude seem to be making me more attached to the world. The other day I was giving thanks for feeling good during this third trimester of pregnancy…then I had a few days where I felt absolutely miserable. While I was feeling bad I found myself with a rich cornucopia of things to complain about, since I’d just recently put some serious thought into all the advantages of not feeling like an overtired, nauseated blob. When I attempted to unite my suffering with Christ’s and seek joy in the Lord despite my circumstances, I kept getting distracted by all those thoughts about how niiiiiiiiiiice it was to feel good. So I guess my question is:
For those of us who tend to be attached to worldly comforts anyway, how do you give thanks for them without becoming more attached to them?
And if you’d like to take a break from my mess and read something spiritually enriching, go check out this post by The Philosopher Mom where she answers the question “Am I happy?” despite facing postpartum depression, financial stress and chronic pain.
(Title shamelessly ripped off from Dorian’s recent guest post.)