Finding Gratitude in Sacrifice

"It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful." 

Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer by Brother David Steindl-Rast

 

This season of abstinence is an interesting time to think about Gratitude and how a shift of perspective can transform your life. Have you ever compared yourself to someone in an unfavorable light? Before you know it, negative feelings rush in out of nowhere- jealousy, unworthiness, self-pity. Nothing has to change in the physical world, but suddenly it seems that what you have is not good enough.

Gratitude has the opposite effect. Gratitude sees with clarity the blessings we have right now, in the unconditional Present. Gratitude doesn't need you to lose 10 lbs or get a promotion before it's willing to speak its praise. Gratitude tells the judging mind to quiet so it can rejoice.

Traditionally, during Lent, we focus our efforts on abstaining from desire – we give up sweets or resolve not to buy anything or we commit to nightly prayer (sacrificing five more minutes of Facebook.) As anyone who has ever attempted a diet knows, it’s challenging to sacrifice, no matter how small the change or how innocent the temptation. So we dig in our heels and try to assert discipline over our 40-day spiritual diet. “It’s only 40 days!” We rationalize. “That’s just 11% of the year. I can DO this!” If we succeed in our spiritual exercise, we may feel strong and proud. If not, we may feel guilty or weak. But, if this measure of success becomes the limit of our Lenten journey, it is merely a rote exercise.

How can we expand the scope of personal growth this Lent season, so that our efforts are backed by meaningful intention? What is our Purpose when we give something up?

 
If the only prayer you said was Thank You, that would be enough.
— Meister Eckhart
 

Thank you, Jesus for this morning sunlight shining through my window!

Thank you, for my loving family, friends and community.

Thank you, for my healthy mind and body. Let me not take these gifts for granted.

Thank you for this fleeting moment, dear Lord, because I paused to remember You.

Gratitude and Sacrifice go hand in hand. When we give something up, we remove that mental distraction called Desire that casts a shadow over all our blessings. And when we ground our thoughts in appreciation, it becomes natural to find contentment in what we already have. 

This Lent, how will you focus on Gratitude?