A startling command came to my thought one bleak winter morning as I stumbled sleepily into the kitchen to begin getting ready for work: ''Defend your gratitude and your gratitude will defend you!'' I had all the symptoms of a cold and fatigue, and all I felt like doing was dragging myself back to my warm bed.
It was as if there were a whiny voice hovering around me - full of complaints. Finally it suggested, ''You don't have a thing to be grateful for, do you?'' Well, that argument jolted me to action. I quickly answered, ''Oh yes I do!'' With no further comments forthcoming from the complaint department, I strode to the bookcase, removed my notebook, grabbed a pen, sat on the sofa, and began to list things I was grateful for.
The gratitude flowed. Starting with the very mundane - the sofa, the notebook , the pen - I soon found my way to the sublime: gratitude to God. Relief and joy filled my heart. I was not guilty of ingratitude, and I knew it.
What happened to all the complaints? Well, what does happen to a complaint when it's confronted by genuine gratitude? It's swallowed up, annihilated. Complaint and gratitude cannot occupy the same heart. I was healed of distress when I let gratitude to God dominate my thought. I defended my gratitude and it defended me.
Some years before, I had begun the study of Christian Science, discovered and founded over one hundred years ago by Mary Baker Eddy. In this study, which emphasizes the practice of spiritual truths found in the Bible, I had found much freedom from fear, disease, depression. I had begun to see that man, as God has actually created him, is His spiritual image, fully endowed with all the good that God imparts. Christ Jesus proved this. He proved through his healings the truth that man in God's image is whole and sinless. He preached the at-handness of the kingdom of God and the at-oneness of God and man.
I began to see that all of us are actu-ally, right now, complete, needing nothing added and needing nothing removed. As the Bible says, ''I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it.'' n1 The Christian Science textbook, by Mrs. Eddy, describes the God-created man this way: ''He is the compound idea of God, including all right ideas . . . .'' And further along it describes man as ''that which possesses no life, intelligence, nor creative power of his own, but reflects spiritually all that belongs to his Maker.'' n2
n1 Ecelesiastes 3:14.
n2 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures p. 475.
In my study of this, to me, newfound concept of perfect God and His perfect man, I finally began to understand what Christ Jesus must have meant when he exhorted his followers to rejoice in the face of adversity and persecution. He fully realized man's true status as the complete manifestation of God's being. Not only is this good reason for rejoicing, but joy itself is here to be exercised as one of man's indestructible God-given qualities. Simply put, we have reason to rejoice and the joy with which to do it.
Anytime we're tempted to complain, we can eradicate that impulsion with gratitude to God. We don't ever have to believe our ability to be grateful is missing. It is a God-derived part of us and can play a strong role in healing. A hymn puts it this way: A grateful heart a fortress is, A staunch and rugged tower, Where God's omnipotence, revealed, Girds man with mighty power.n3
n3 Christian Science Hymnal, No. 3.
DAILY BIBLE VERSE Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright. Praise the Lord with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise. for the word of the Lord is right; and all his works are done in truth. He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. . . . Our soul waiteth for the Lord: he is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name. Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in thee. Psalms 33:1-5, 20-22