I mean, we see it every day. The call to gratitude. We are told to journal it. We are told to start every day with it.
Well I read something the other day that got me to thinking that perhaps we are looking at it wrongly, or at least superficially.
Let’s be real here.
When do we invoke this “count your blessings” doctrine?
Usually when crap is going badly for us. When the winter has been too long, or we are challenged by a health issue, or a loved one dies, or doesn’t love us any more. When the kids fly the coop, when the sinuses act up, when a promotion falls through. The list of human bumps in the road are endless.
And somebody reminds us, or we remind ourselves, to remember how darn fortunate we are “all things considered.”
So we dig our way out of the hole by posting a list of ten “gratitudes” each day, or we write in a journal, or we at least start our meditation/prayers with a list. Partly this greatly enlarges our concept of what we can be grateful for of course. The flowers, the sun when it has rained for days, a really good cup of coffee.
But what underlines much of this process, either consciously or otherwise, is an assumption of who or what one is to be grateful to. In fact, it’s pretty much in your face in some meme’s I’ve seen on Facebook.
We thank God for this, that, and everything good that happens to us. We thank God for a sunny warm day for that outdoor wedding, for surviving that heart attack, and for keeping us from that awful accident at that spot we passed only seconds before.
And that creates the great unspoken counterpoint.
Other people died in the accident we avoided. Others don’t survive their heart attacks. It rains on plenty of outdoor weddings. What have these folks done wrong? not enough of?
When we give gratefulness to God for the good, we automatically suggest that others weren’t deserving enough, didn’t believe enough, well enough, or something. Not enough. We however, are “good” enough.
God must love us a lot since we have all “this”. And God, consequently must not love them as much.
That is what we mean, even if we don’t think it.
And of course even our prayer of gratitude is not pure. It’s done for a purpose. To get us out of our sad/angry/scared place.
Surely we should be grateful. We work hard, we are patient, we study, we have friends and family who help us. All these things can be the point of our gratitude and no doubt deservingly so. Whatever my parents were or were not, they got me to college, allowed me the opportunity to become a lawyer, make a good living, set myself up for a nicely comfortable financial life. I owe them my gratitude. I also owe it to myself for all those endless days and nights of studying that first year of law school without which their funds would have been wasted.
But when I take it up the scale and I thank God, then I’m heading in a whole new direction.
For then I must posit and belief that God is a meddler. God is a minutia freak. God is pulling an infinity of strings to make sure that I got that education, that job, met that man, moved to that place, and on and on and on. Once you start here, you can’t stop. God ends up being responsible for every tooth not rotted with decay. God becomes responsible for somebody remembering to post birthday greetings on your Wall.
Free will is out the door, because it’s all part of God’s plan, that fall-back position for “I don’t know how the hell this happened”.
And if it’s one way, then it’s all ways. God is also responsible for the flood that ruined your home with not enough insurance to cover the repairs. God is at
fault the reason for sonny boy not getting into Princeton. God ruined the souffle.
Because He is either in charge or he’s not. There’s no middle ground. It’s all part of the great mysterious “plan” and it’s gotta happen that way. You have to have a headache on March 7, so that a husband doesn’t keel over from a stroke because you didn’t make that chocolate cake that was the last straw that would break the blood vessel’s wall two days later.
And if all that is true, then people who are shot and killed in Syria today were only dying because God willed it. It was for that higher purpose “plan”. And if people live with not enough to eat, well they are supposed to. There are slippery slopes, and this is one of them. Start down the path to praising God for the good in your life, and you have to admit that he causes all the bad too.
I’m not saying that God sits back and never does a thing. I think he speaks to each of us urgently every moment, begging us to rise to the occasion. And if we do, we’re looking out for ourselves, our loved ones, and all the people we don’t even know. We’re kinder and better to ourselves and everyone else. God urges that surgeon to be the best surgeon and completely focused. He begs her not to drink the night before. BUT SHE EITHER LISTENS OR DOESN’T AND IF SHE DOESN’T, AND HER HAND SLIPS, SHE’S TO BLAME, NOT GOD, FOR THE PATIENT’S DEATH.
You see what I mean?
That’s how God is God and we are we, fault-prone humans with free will to do or not do as we choose.
So by all means, give thanks for all you have. It’s a fine practice. Just remember who you need to thank and who not.
God can be thanked for much, but micromanaging your little life? Ahhh, not so much.