Feeling Gratitude

gold pen on top of Today I Am Grateful book

Photo by gabrielle cole on Unsplash

In last week’s blog post, I shared how a common time of prayer can move from a sacred act to an unthinking habit. I think the main difference between the two is gratitude.
Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of talk about how our faith can’t be based upon how we feel since that can change so easily depending upon this or that. While I am not arguing to the contrary, I do hesitate to parrot that advice because I believe we constantly have the opportunity for the most part to choose how we feel. Not in a Pollyanna-esque way of always “looking at the bright side” but in the sense of living our faith with our whole being – all our heart, all our soul, all our might – and being present enough to recognize our emotions and thoughts and physical reactions. Then to process them, to lean into what is happening within ourselves and probe the why and what now instead of just riding the surface wave of mood. In other words, how we feel.
Being present is a spiritual discipline. Allowing yourself the time and care to manage your wholeness is not something that comes naturally to most people, especially when we’re busy, stressed, and focused on being productive (though that begs the question of what we are producing when we’re preoccupied and stressed). Time is a luxury item that few seem to be able to afford. “Free time” is a misnomer; we all only have so much to spend and none of us know exactly what our balance is. Yet if our goal is to spend our lives in ways that make us more like Jesus who was so aware he felt it when a woman intentionally touched his robe in the middle of a bustling crowd, then a pursuit toward being present to ourselves is a worthy present to ourselves (pun intended).
Now, as someone who struggles with depression, I am not advocating for sweeping our emotions under a rug to claim some kind of spiritual maturity; that is in fact the opposite. I do, however, know that when I am able to take a few deep breaths, listen to myself, name what is happening within me, and perhaps connect some dots on why I feel such-and-such, I am much more likely to encounter God speaking to me in that moment. I am so grateful for those times we spend together. They become holy.
The poet of Psalm 100 adjured us to “enter [God’s] gates with thanksgiving”. Being present leads us to feeling gratitude, that difference between sacred act and careless habit. Take a deep breath and be known to yourself. I think the Holy Spirit will meet you there to draw you closer through gratitude.
– Amanda Zuehlke