"I am a complete sh*t. I am a worthless worm of a bug of a human, lower than a snake's belly and just as gravelly"
"Say wot?", is your best reply, polished after years of etiquette lessons and best deportment classes
"It's all terrible; woe woe and thrice woe"
"But what about the mange-tout?"
"I am not worthy so much to eat the mange-toute from off of your Royal Doulton"
Do you know what? This is what God hears every day of his/her life. Christians are so effective at self-flaggelation that we have fast lost the art of simple gratitude. We would rather moan about the slightest prosepct that the pews might be removed from church or that the preacher didn't agree with our personal theology. We enjoy focussing upon, and probably even relishing, the very idea that we are basically horrid (until someone else suggests it, when it becomes an insult, anathema).
I read a report written by a psychologst recently on the very real benefits of gratitude upon the grateful, let alone upon the recipients of that gratitude. Apparently, expressing gratitude allows a person to focus on what they have instead of what they do not, thereby lessening the negative effects of jealousy. Paying someone a visit purely to express a genuine gratitude is among one of the most positive psychological exercises and aids the reconfiguration in neuroplasticity (the re-moulding of the potter's clay, in other words). Gratitude can be expressed with skepticism but not cynicism, enhances a sense of true openness and connects the person completely to the event or matter in question. It seems that gratitude is a good fruit of the best kind of reflection. And Christians are hopeless at it, or so it seems.
If we take the ACTS model of prayer (adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication) it seems that depending on where you worship God determines which of these you might major in. Some do the adoration thing quite a lot (Jesus/God is lovely and all that), while others do rather well and confessing (I am but a worm and no person), with supplication being a healthy thing in all of us. However, think of the last set of intercessions you listened to - was it dripping in gratitude or bleak with the darkness of the human condition?
It seems to me that Christians have a great deal to be grateful for. I wonder how many people took it for granted that they had a church to walk into and a seat to sit in this weekend; that a minister of some sort had prepared some form of worship and delivered it; that there were lights on in the church and maybe just maybe even heat; that there wasn't a gunman stood waiting outside to take potshots because you were Christian. I wonder how many of us sat down to lunch without thinking about it, or falling into bed for a (hopefully) good night's sleep?
We are not bad people, in the main. But there is a very grave danger, in the West at least, that we are SO blessed (and God loved the world SO much ...) that we become almost immunised by plenty. I wonder if God doesn't tire of our hair-lined shirts. I wonder if we are missing some very basic pychological gains in this life by failing to make a gatitude adjustment?
The answer, I am told, is to make a list daily of things for which to be thankful. Eventually, after a period of those lists looking largely the same each time, they become more creative as the lister in question starts to re-notice the little things that make such a difference. This, my friend, is the path to happiness.
Thank you for reading.