I got coffee with a friend the other day, and our conversation drifted to gratitude — more specifically, the pressure to carry gratitude through the seasons of life that make you feel like every step you take is kicking up dust as you move through an endless wasteland of uncomfortable interactions with well-meaning acquaintances, perceivably unnecessary growing pains, and/or promises not yet seen.
As Christians, I think we have a bad habit of defaulting to gratitude. A quick (though admittedly not thorough) Google search revealed that giving thanks is mentioned at least 140 times in the Bible, and some of the more well-known pieces of Scripture focus on the concept. However, in my opinion neither the quantity nor the significance of biblical references to gratitude are an indication that we should be grateful as soon as we’re faced with something difficult, or skip the sitting-in and the feeling-of whatever we encounter during those dusty wasteland seasons.
You’re not doing it wrong if the gratitude doesn’t come until later.
The reason I haven’t written since May of last year is because last summer was one of those seasons of putting one dusty foot in front of the other and trusting that there would be an end to the things I was experiencing, feeling, and losing, and when the dust settled all I could do was sit in it and pray that the hollow spaces left behind would be filled with something bigger and much more permanent — supernatural love.
What I was praying for came true (it always does), but it didn’t happen right away. Since last summer I’ve been much more intentional about the things I’m choosing to replace those that were stripped away, and I think treating my hollow spaces as opportunities to plant new things rather than aching divots in my heart led to a deeper understanding of why they were put there in the first place. Cherishing my soul’s negative space taught me about the gratitude of letting go.
Well…that, Marie Kondo, and Ariana Grande. The thematically relevant “Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and “thank u, next,” both of which taught me the value of the space left behind when you bid farewell to things that no longer serve you, grow you, or bring you closer to Jesus. The idea of practicing gratitude for the closed doors and the road blocks and the dusty trails through the wilderness, because all of it has created spaces within you that the Lord will fill with things beyond your wildest dreams.
What my friend and I finally landed on when we were at coffee was this: not currently feeling gratitude in your letting go doesn’t mean you never will. In fact, sitting in the pain and the uncertainty with a knowing in your heart that someday you will be grateful is one of the most beautiful examples of faith I can think of.
The other day I drove past something that triggered a memory. I braced myself for the familiar ache, but it didn’t come. Instead, I thanked that period of life for serving me, teaching me, growing me, and preparing my heart and soul to receive the new. In fact, that same night I revisited my list of 25 things I learned at 25, something I haven’t glanced at since this summer because I didn’t think I was ready. I’ll be sharing it here on the blog next week.
The truth is I’m still in process. I’m still learning that there will someday be gratitude in all of my letting go. That it’s okay to sit in what I’m feeling as long as I have the trust in the growth and the next dusty step. There aren’t many things I’m certain of, but one of those things is that no matter what you’re letting go of, the space it leaves behind will be filled with light and hope and love.
Stay beautiful. – K