Be thankful in all circumstances. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)
I was at war with my body for years. In my mind, it didn’t look right or perform right. I would push it, yell at it, work it hard into the night. When it would get sick and sore, I’d curse it. When it failed to fall asleep when I finally went to bed, I would be frustrated with it. When I looked in the mirror, I saw a body not worthy of praise, and I told it so.
My friend Sarah was over the other day and another friend who had never been to my house before popped in. Sarah proceeded to give her the grand tour of our little beach shack while I followed sheepishly behind them. When the tour finished, Sarah said: “I had to show you around. Otherwise, Liz would have spent the whole time apologizing for her home.”
People email me, comment on my posts; my friends talk to me over cups of tea about my work. They encourage and congratulate me. And most of the time, I face their words with silence. I might shed a tear, go red in the face, feel warm and tingly, but rarely do I say thank you. I excuse the praise away with deflecting comments.
We have such an aversion to praise, in the giving and receiving of it. OK, you might be thinking; “I know people who LOVE to be praised.” But those people are often enamored with ingenuine praise that comes from anyone who’ll give it. Up close thankfulness that requires vulnerability is a whole other thing.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 were verses I loved to hate – how can anyone be that positive?!
“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances.”
But as I’ve grown to understand joy, prayer, and thankfulness as being awake, aware and alive to the divinity all around me and within me – the presence of God in my life – these verses have come alive.
Now, most nights, as I’m heading off to sleep I thank my body.
“Thank you for all your hard work today. You did a great job; you can rest now.”
Those few words are changing my life. My body has become part of my ‘self' again – not something absent from my spirit, but a member of my Trinitarian make up. The “thanks” has brought healing.
More and more, I’m “owning” my home (not just buying it back from the bank), my life, and not apologizing for it. “This is it, warts, scuff marks, and all – and ain't she beautiful.” I’m thankful for it, not ashamed of it. The “thanks” has brought joy.
Humbly, I’m starting to say “thank you” when people encourage me. It’s not an ego thing; it’s a divine exchange. And the thanks is bringing connection and fulfillment to my life.
What would happen if we thanked our neighbors, partners, teachers, friends, parents, and children more often? If our go-to words and attitudes were thankfulness rather than anger, frustration, entitlement and deflection. I’m not saying that we ignore the bad and ugly parts of life. But let’s stop ignoring the good parts. Let’s put them on the top of the list. “Thankfulness” builds bridges, makes pathways and connects hearts. What would happen if, when we rang our local member, and before we launched into our concerns, frustrations, and anxieties about our communities and countries, we thanked them?
Being thankful doesn’t ignore what’s wrong in the world. It recognizes the gift and the grace that life is, and creates a place for us to humbly meet in the middle where good, honest and healing work can be done.
Go to Part 3 – The Help »
Written by Lizzy Milani