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Gratitude: A not-to-be-missed spiritual feast

From the November 2022 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Expressing gratitude is a deeply nourishing practice that brings with it indescribable power. In America, my country, Thanksgiving is celebrated each November by expressing gratitude. Whether gathering with family or going solo—or even if in a part of the world without this holiday—we can benefit from taking a closer look at the true nature of gratitude.

Gratitude promotes a sense of well-being and helps one become more aware of good. In fact, it is a kind of prayer, which keeps us in conversation with God, good.

“Our Gratitude is riches, complaint is poverty” 

These words from a hymn (Vivian Burnett, Christian Science Hymnal, No. 249, © CSBD) can prompt a vital, thought-provoking question: Do I choose to serve the god of limitation or instead acknowledge the absolute truth of the abundance of God, good?

While it is common to assume that lack leads to complaint, complaint increasingly opens the door to the suggestion of lack. In turn, this can encourage fear, worry, envy, and even desperation—all of which are roadblocks to growth and gratitude. Getting our own wants and don’t-wants out of the way, we open our hearts to the stirring acknowledgment of what’s spiritually true, our perfection as God’s image. 

As we rise above a sense of lack, we discern the law of divine Science undergirding all, and a natural sense of gratitude and inspiration glows from within. Blessings we couldn’t see before appear. Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of Christian Science, asked, “Are we really grateful for the good already received? Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have, and thus be fitted to receive more” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 3).

Gratitude before seeing the human evidence, is scientific—it reveals and heals  

There is a gratitude that comes before any perceivable human reason for it, or proof of it, and it is like a lens through which we can view the living, present infinite Principle, God. Such gratitude is an expectancy of experiencing the good that God continuously bestows on man, an awareness that springs from the ever-presence of good—what is already going on. We do not have to wait for our experience to change before we choose to acknowledge God’s unalterable good right here, right now.

Jesus demonstrated the power of this gratitude when he gave thanks and then fed over five thousand people from five barley loaves and two fish (see John 6:5–14). And this same action restored his dear friend Lazarus to life. Though it looked as if Jesus had arrived too late, he lifted his heart in a prayer of thanksgiving to God right there and said: “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always” (John 11:41, 42). And then he called Lazarus, who walked out of the grave alive.

The concept of being grateful before the evidence comes is understanding the universal law of good eternally at work, and this ushers in the way for God’s glorious allness to be manifested. It sheds the light of spiritual understanding—and this brings healing.

Perceiving God’s dynamic creation of good here and now 

Christian Science reveals that each one of us is the reflection of the infinite Mind, and that there is only one Mind, God, which is intelligence itself. In this divine intelligence, we are creative, confident, resplendent—a stunningly beautiful idea of God’s creation. 

But do we believe this about ourselves? Or do we doubt, and find ourselves expressing only obligatory, by-rote gratitude, especially on a certain holiday? 

To experience gratitude more regularly and more deeply, unlimited and consistent good must be cherished in consciousness. Take some time to sit and ponder what God sees as you—including your absolute beauty and grace. Then feel this spiritual reality wash over you. It can’t help but break through a personal sense of limitation, a focus on self, and a litany of problems that seem to plague all humankind.

The practice of a grateful heart helps to heal because it enlivens and inspires us—which not only blesses ourselves and our loved ones, but universally uplifts others around the globe. Further, it prepares us, as Science and Health says, “to receive more” (p. 3).   

Expressing gratitude is a paradigm shift 

It is a joy to heal our innermost thoughts, and for those who are Christian Scientists it is a duty. The moment we feel grateful for God’s goodness is the sparkling moment we live our prayers, and trustingly release that cloud of human distractions—in short, we accept “the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). 

Perhaps in a moment of regret, pain, or self-pity, one is unable to perceive God’s goodness. But recognizing the culprit as error—anything that suggests that we’re separated from God—helps us to dismiss the error, and turns us back to our source, God. Science and Health leads us on: “Science is a divine demand, not a human. Always right, its divine Principle never repents, but maintains the claim of Truth by quenching error” (p. 329).

Each moment is an opportunity to align our thoughts to pristine divine Life. Here one may shed layers of darkness that obscure our real gratitude. Mrs. Eddy wrote a remarkable thought: “God expresses in man the infinite idea forever developing itself, broadening and rising higher and higher from a boundless basis” (Science and Health, p. 258).  

How can one be anything but grateful for the idea of the infinite playing out as one’s life? The divine Mind is generously expressing each one of us as a supreme, ever-active idea. With God, divine Principle, Love, as our starting point, one is made anew. And not surprisingly, solutions follow to resolve challenges.

“Our lives attest our sincerity” 

Science and Health says, “The Master’s injunction is, that we pray in secret and let our lives attest our sincerity” (p. 15). Jesus’ examples are incontrovertible; he fully lived what he taught. He didn’t repeat cursory words of gratitude, but felt and lived his thanks to God—which is a prayer for healing. He taught us that the best way to be grateful is to live thankfully. 

Grateful living is being aware that every day is an opportunity to embrace in consciousness the Life that is God. Living with a grateful heart also helps us to let loose from any false sense of identity or self-consciousness, as freeborn children of God, good. Sincere gratitude lifts one above a limited, corporeal sense of self and reminds us that whatever good is perceived as lacking is scientifically already present.

The following are words in the Christian Science Hymnal. They sing to us that each of us comes “to perfect bloom” every moment we’re grateful:

A grateful heart a garden is, 
Where there is always room 
For every lovely, Godlike grace 
To come to perfect bloom.
(Ethel Wasgatt Dennis, No. 3, © CSBD) 

It is the understanding of God’s infinite, omnipotent care for which we express the ultimate gratitude. Mind is pointing the way, even when we are experiencing human thorns, but the crown of thought which is grateful and always receptive of the divine idea comes with healing on its wings. No matter what time of year.

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