Last spring I was walking with my youngest daughter past a sports field on the school campus where I teach. It had been a particularly long day at work and I was just tired, tired of everything: the wind spring brings, the temperature that felt too cold for the season, the coats we were still wearing from November, the homework that needed to be graded, the waking up to an alarm every morning, the staff meetings, the computer screens, the backpacks, the laundry list of it all. Basically, responsibility of any kind felt like a weight around my neck. My yoke did not feel easy and my burdens were not light. My full life, and all the expectation in it, had me feeling a bit down and in that moment, feeling sorry for myself felt not only appropriate, but necessary.
Thankfully, my silent pity party was interrupted by the voice of my little girl. She looked at the same field I was looking at and declared that is was a garden; a garden filled with a thousand yellow flowers. I looked up and saw nothing but grass that needed mowing and a ridiculous amount of dandelions. Immediately upon her declaration, she dropped her backpack, ran out into the field and started picking flowers. Where I saw weeds, she saw beauty. Where I saw another unmet expectation, she saw opportunity. Where I saw another thing to complain about, she saw something to be grateful for.
The truth is gratitude changes everything. In Philippians 4, Paul writes: “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
If I am honest, I struggle to practice an attitude of gratitude. When I look at the big picture that is life I am easily overwhelmed and have a hard time finding thankfulness in my heart. You see, I can fake it. I can look thankful and act grateful; however, God knows my heart and He knows that in the secret and quiet places I am neither. This lack of thankfulness, this sin, quietly robs me of the joy of the Lord. I’ve learned through trial and error that faking it is exhausting. Suffering silently is not what I am made for. I am made for freedom through repentance. So I repent. I repent of my ungrateful heart. My heart that can’t see the gift in the small things and the miracle in the big. My heart that screams I want it my way. My heart that sees weeds, when I should see flowers.
The truth is in this crazy world filled with exhausting expectations, God gives us a recipe for peace and joy in Philippians 4. He says if we will rejoice in Him, tell Him our needs through prayer, and thank Him for all He has done in our lives, His peace will protect both our hearts and minds. Even though I have not mastered the art of thankfulness in all things and I still have exhausting days; I am learning to move quicker towards gratitude in Christ and I am experiencing His peace more often in my life. I am learning to think small about all the gifts He gives each day, to cultivate a perspective that sees a garden where the world sees weeds. Developing a perspective of peace through a relationship with Christ may take a lifetime, but His way is so much better than mine.