I started this year with an intention of being more intentional about being grateful. But several months later I have to admit that gratitude is harder than it looks. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty to be grateful for. God has continued to bless my life in amazing ways. It’s that “state of being” part that is a constant struggle for me.
You may remember some of what I shared in my earlier post about how I have a never ending ‘to do’ list and set unreasonable expectations for myself that end up leaving me feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. And even though I am realizing that I’m the one creating the stress for myself, I still can’t seem to stop it. I’m still not taking time to rest or even celebrate the blessings. I can feel the very real effects that stress is having on my body—pelvic pain, tension headaches, and weight loss to name a few. I even know what steps I need to take to reduce these negative effects—relaxation and meditation, yoga, quality time with friends and family—and they’re all enjoyable things! So why on earth can’t I seem to do them?
I can blame my Type A personality, the workaholic American culture I live in, or even my over-achieving (I swear he never sleeps) boss that I have a tendency to compare myself to. But those are all just external factors—they don’t make me who I am and they don’t make my choices for me. I heard a quote from Carolyn McCulley recently that really struck me. She was describing how we can find ourselves in a place where we “see ourselves more as a human doing than a human being.”* I feel like that describes me—I am so wrapped up in the doing because the doing is where I am placing my identity. But that is so contrary to how we were created. God didn’t create human doings, He created human beings, in His image. And who I am in Him is where my identity comes from; it doesn’t come from what I do.
And yet, this is a lesson I am still trying to learn. I know intellectually that my identity comes from God, but I certainly don’t live like I know it. And if I don’t live like it, then do I really believe it? I think that, yes, I do believe that my identity comes from God—He is truly my source of hope and strength. But I still live in the same world you do, surrounded by a culture that values accomplishments and the successful completion of ‘to do’ list items. And I am still in the process of being transformed into who He created me to be. It is not an overnight fix. I am still human after all, and over time God is shaping me to become the being he created rather than just the doing that I have a tendency to focus on.
I know that God is at work in showing me gratitude this year. I can’t count how many times I have read or heard a message that relates to this lesson of being. I recently listened to an online sermon in which the pastor was describing the idea of making a ‘to be’ list rather than a ‘to do’ list. I believe it was in that same message that the pastor stated, “You will only be able to do what God has called you to do in your life after you become the person that He has called you to be.”** I am still becoming that person, and until I become the person He has called me to be is my ‘to do’ list really all that important?
And so the year of gratitude continues—the journey towards being not yet complete. Living in that ideal state of gratitude is hard, but not out of reach. I will continue to try my best to practice a state of being grateful (and since I’m so good at lists, maybe I’ll try out that ‘to be’ list). How about you? Have you learned some gratitude lessons along your journey? I would love to hear about them, please post a comment to share (and you can use an alias if you prefer to remain anonymous)!
*Quoted from Propel Women interview with Carolyn McCulley, Freeing Your Identity from Your Productivity, http://www.propelwomen.org/content/freeing-your-identity-from-your-productivity/gjjr13.
**Quoted from an Elevation Church sermon message. Unfortunately I can’t find the specific sermon message on their website, but you can still check out other amazing messages at http://elevationchurch.org/.