“Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides. It means you are willing to stop being such a jerk. When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and in the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled, and pleased to give back.” – Anne Lamott

“If the only prayer you say in your entire life is, ‘Thank you,’ that would suffice,” Meister Eckhart said once. The famous English poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins‘ last words were reportedly, “I am so happy. I am so happy. I loved my life.” It would seem Hopkins lived out Eckhart’s admonition. I read Hopkins’ last words over last summer and they have stayed lodged in my chest and in my imagination ever since. These words drip with gratitude.

Ingratitude shows our discontentment with life as it is. Indeed, there is much in this sin-ravaged world to make our hearts long for a fuller reign of God in our lives and in our world. Unfortunately, so much of my ingratitude springs not from a discontentment with sin, but with our own disgruntled selfishness. We want things our way and on our terms.

Gratitude opens our eyes to see the myriad of blessings already embedded within our lives. Gratitude helps us to hold our gifts loosely as blessings rather than tightly as entitlements. Gratitude expands our willingness to welcome all of our life into God’s Redemptive Presence, not just the parts we deem good, right, successful, creative, or powerful.

As we welcome our whole lives to God’s Table, we can receive new mercy and grace for every disappointment, failure, frustration, setback, suffering, and grief. As we allow our whole selves to saturate in God’s mercy and grace, we become open to making room for other broken lives to join us at God’s Table.

Over the next couple of months, many of us will sit around tables with friends and family to celebrate the holidays. So many times we sit down to those tables with resentment from the past, unfair expectations for the future, and a lack of centeredness in our identity as the beloved of God. I pray we can all approach the table with fresh gratitude for life on God’s terms. Because life is a beautiful gift from God.