Gratitude. At first blush, I didn't understand what the relationship between trust and gratitude could be. But that's precisely what Manning talks about in the second chapter of Ruthless Trust. I don't want to spoil the book for those of you who haven't read it and want to, but so much of this is too good not to share!
Manning explains, " ... the person with an abiding spirit of gratitude is the one who trusts God.
And he continues, "The foremost quality of a trusting disciple is gratefulness. Gratitude arises from the lived perception, evaluation, and acceptance of all of life as grace -- as an undeserved and unearned gift from the Father's hand. Such recognition is itself the work of grace, and acceptance of the gift is implicitly an acknowledgment of the Giver." (pp. 24-25)
I love how he doesn't waste any time, but goes straight for the jugular vein of your soul.
I considered this is relationship to our present circumstances. Over the last four or so weeks, I have experienced many moments of profound gratitude. I woke up early this past Saturday morning, just as the light was starting to creep through the blinds of our bedroom window. My husband was asleep beside me, and I put my hands on my belly and felt Ewan squirming around in there. I looked around the bedroom of our new apartment, a space for which we have a profound appreciation (if you had seen our first apartment, you'd understand) and considered the mountains rising up outside, veiled by the bedroom blinds, covered in evergreen trees. This place is so quiet, and feels so far away from the things that make people stressed, harried, and anxious. In that moment, I was deeply grateful for everything right around me: for a man who loves me more than I knew was possible, for this baby who is uniquely ours, for where we live, and for every painful and blissful experience that brought us to this place. All things considered, I knew in a deep, deep way how profoundly blessed we are.
And I was so grateful.
But honestly, I have had moments where I've done my share of grumbling, whether or not anyone has heard them out loud. I have had those moments where I lamented this was happening to us. I didn't want to be the exception. I didn't want people to pity us. I didn't want to give up the birthing experience I have hoped and planned for. I didn't want people to think, "Oh, poor Ewan!" Whine whine whine. Grumble grumble grumble.
I wasn't grateful for what was happening. I wasn't trusting the role this experience might play in something far greater, something that I do not have the foresight to see. I wasn't considering that blessings that will come and that, in truth, have already come as a result of what we have learned about Ewan's heart.
Manning quotes another favorite author of mine, the late Henri Nouwen from his work Bread for the Journey:
"To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives -- the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections -- that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for. Let's not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God."
Henri Nouwen, qtd. in Manning (p. 31)
And so I am grateful -- for James, for Ewan, and for his broken heart. I am grateful for what this little one is teaching me already. I am grateful for every moment of this pregnancy, for every kick and nudge and roll, for learning to feel and know acutely just how very delicate life is. I'm grateful for the support and encouragement that has been poured out on us. I'm so grateful that so many others love my little bean before he's even born. I'm grateful for the space I live in, for a place to write, and for the grace to know -- to really, really know -- that whether in the midst of profound ecstasy or excruciating pain (or anywhere in between), God is good.
Now it's your turn. Yesterday you told me about those things and moments in your life in which you learned to trust. It was such a gift to me to hear your stories and to learn from you how you've been shaped by those crucible moments in your life. And now I want to know: What are you grateful for right now? What makes you rise up and say thank you?