Early in recovery I was taught to write a gratitude list every morning. I was instructed to list 10 things that I was grateful for. In the beginning, I struggled to find things that I was grateful for. At first I listed things like my car, my home, my legs, my arms. On good days I listed my sanity and sobriety and on even better days I listed my friends, family and even my faith.
Gratitude is a form of medicine. It can cure what ails me.
If I am pissed off at something, I can think of what I’m grateful for and replace that angry feeling with gratitude. Easier said than done. I also know that when I’m grateful for things I already have, I’m not thinking about the things I don’t have. At least, not as much.
But Chapter 6 in the book of John just taught me something else about gratitude. In the beginning of the chapter, John talks about how Jesus, who had to be pretty tired after healing that guy at the pool and bringing that royal kid back to life, walked to the top of a hill, I’m assuming to rest. But when he got there, he looked down and saw 5000 people coming to him, probably to find out more about who he was, what he could do and what he had to say.
I imagine it was kind of like the crowd at a Bernie Sanders rally, without all the donations.
When Philip, who was hanging out with Jesus that day, saw the crowd, he didn’t know how they would feed all of the people. Another one of the disciples, Andrew, spotted a little kid with 5 measly loaves of bread and two fish. He told Jesus about that, but was absolutely certain that they were still kind in a bad spot. I mean, 5000 hungry men could probably get pretty angry pretty quickly.
But Jesus didn’t worry. Instead, he had the people sit down and then he took the bread and fish from the little boy. And then, here’s the best part – he gave thanks – and the gospel tells us that he “distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted.” When they had enough to eat, there were leftovers. Not just a few crumbs, either. There were 12 baskets of leftovers!
Okay, so a few things here. First, the disciples didn’t know how the same guy who had just turned water into wine could possibly solve this pickle. So I’m thinking the disciples didn’t have a whole lot of faith. Second, Jesus gave thanks – GAVE THANKS for the tiny bit of food he had. Third, there were leftovers.
As far as the lack of faith thing goes, I get it. Even though these guys had witnessed miracles, they still doubted. I do that all the time and I’m willing to cut them some slack. Because like me, they too were human.
But the giving thanks thing? That’s the one that hit home for me. Here’s Jesus, with such a tiny bit of food, not nearly enough to meet his needs, and he actually thanks God for it. I tried to remember the last time I did that. I can’t remember ever writing on my gratitude list something like, “Thank you for the little bit of money I have even though it’s not enough to pay my bills,” or “Hey God, really grateful that I didn’t have enough restraint of tongue yesterday.”
However, Jesus did thank God for the little he had, even though it wasn’t enough. And when he did, it resulted in a surplus. That’s so cool. Here he was, facing a ridiculously large shortage, and when he thanked God for the little bit he had, because he thanked God, he received, or received the ability to create more than enough – MORE than enough to meet his needs.
The whole lesson makes me want to approach my gratitude list a little differently. It kind of makes me want to look at my lack of things with hope for things that could be. And it definitely makes me want to learn a little more from Jesus. So far, I like his teaching style.