13 Mar Is there still good?
Is there still good in this world when around me there are young families going through divorce, when a young father died of cancer and a mother of four died after years of fighting a terminal disease. Are there still good things when a friend birthed a sick baby who has to stay in NICU for a month, when more and more people are homeless and hungry? Can we still find joy when family are unexpectedly sick, when wars are still raging, when corruption is still rife and the light at the end of the tunnel seems very far away and very, very dim?
Yes. The answer is yes. There are still good things when we’re in seasons of hurt, confusion and sadness. Yes, there is still good in our world, even in a pandemic when thousands are sick and losing loved ones. Yes, there is still joy to be found in brokenness, in times of darkness, depression and loss. It may not be the first thing we see or realise, it probably won’t even be the second or third. But it’s there and we need to train ourselves to look for it. Our humanness focuses on the negative. We see and feel the bad first. And if we aren’t intentional about looking for the good, we may be sucked into the darkness so deep that our negativity starts eating us away like a toxic poison and spilling out onto those around us. It takes time to train ourselves, it takes practice and reminders. Then slowly, over time, we start noticing the good before we’ve even looked for it. We become grateful for things that have probably been there forever but have never been noticed in the clarity they are now.
In her book, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp embarks on a journey to find joy in the life she already has. She starts writing a gifts list. “Not of gifts I want but of gifts I already have”, she writes. She starts noticing rainbow reflections in the bubbles of soapy dish water and the deep colour of jam piled thick on warm toast. She is not oblivious or immune to the pain and struggle in her world. She feels it and wrestles with it but chooses to look through a different lens. A lens that allows her to see past the darkness into the light. She chooses to look at life through a different perspective.
This can be for us too. We can also feel the joy and the pain simultaneously. We can also smile through the stream of salty tears. And we should. We should, because we have this life that has been gifted to us. This life full of so much colour and sweetness. We can choose the lens through which we look and it starts with consciously noticing and being grateful for those things you smell, taste, feel and see. Becoming grateful for these small things, together with the big ones, develops over time as we build gratitude into our daily lives. How? Here are four ways that helped me:
1. Make time for gratitude every day. Tag your gratitude time onto something you already do as part of our daily routine, like when you’re waiting for the kettle to boil or the robot to turn green or during your quiet time or meditation. Choose something that you do every day and use that time to start thinking about a few things you’re grateful for. You’ll notice that, over a few weeks or months, this practice of gratitude will become completely natural, part of your daily rhythm.
2. Choose three to five new things every day. This helps us train ourselves to be on the lookout for the beauty and blessings around us in each new day, whatever that day brings. Write them down in a journal or on your calendar. Notice the list start growing.
3. Be specific. Being specific about things we’re grateful for helps us to acknowledge exactly why we’re grateful for these things. Being grateful for the sunshine so your new herb garden can grow and flourish is more specific that being grateful for the sunshine.
4. Express your gratitude. Say thank you to the person who gave you that coffee or made you smile. Say thank you for the grace you receive each day to parent your growing children. Say thank you to your tribe for being your inspiration, your support, your connection. Say thank you for the flowers that make your home smell so sweet each time you walk through the front door.
We don’t need anything to change for us to enjoy and appreciate the fullness of our lives, other than the lens through which we look. Your gifts are already there, right in the middle of the muddy waters you might be navigating through. We don’t need more stuff, a quieter place, a bigger space, a higher bank balance or a smaller body. What we need is to start noticing the good things right where we are. And as we start taking note of the things we are grateful for, we begin to lose sight of all the things we think we lack.