The essence of a thankful heart

A Christian Science perspective.

Why is Thanksgiving many people’s favorite holiday? Is it the food, the harvest festivities, the gathering of family and friends? Is it all the outward things we stop and take time to be grateful for, or is there something more?

Sometimes there are lots of outward things to feel thankful for, but sometimes not. Is the giving of thanks dependent on our outward circumstances? What are we thankful for, and why?

The Bible recounts Jesus’ healing of 10 lepers (see Luke 17:12-19). Mary Baker Eddy, in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” says in reference to this story, “Of the ten lepers whom Jesus healed, but one returned to give God thanks, – that is, to acknowledge the divine Principle which had healed him” (p. 94). She doesn’t say the leper stopped to be thankful for his healing alone, but to acknowledge the Principle behind his healing – God. Jesus thanked God before he healed Lazarus. What did he thank God for? And what did he hope the healed leper was thankful for?

Gratitude is a lens on life, a posture. It’s not a mere bright-side positive attitude. It is an acknowledgment not just of the seen, but of the unseen, that which endures through all difficulties, through all lack, fear, strife, and health or relationship challenges. Gratitude is acknowledging the presence of God, of the operation of Love as law, as the law of perpetual good, always available, no matter what the circumstances might be. It is really feeling answers to our fears, as an already present spiritual animus. It is experiencing peace, good, release, sometimes before there is apparent reason to.

I can think of numerous instances when I turned to God in need and felt the answer spiritually before I saw outward adjustment or healing. One is an experience I had when returning, after several years, to the serious study and practice of Christian Science. During this hiatus, I had struggled with a painful condition in my wrist, which curtailed my athletics and for which a coach suggested surgery. Upon arriving for an intense 10-day swimming/canoeing/water safety training course on which my summer job depended, the wrist condition flared up. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to participate in the training.

I wanted to consider how what I was learning about spiritual reality related to this circumstance. I called my mother to support me in prayer. She agreed and asked me to look around me and see everything as perfectly located in the Mind that is God, to see beyond the material surface of trees and cabins and people, to see all things as ideas created by God. I did as she asked, and what followed was a most profound insight into the nature of God and the universe around me. I saw a spiritual beauty in everyone and everything as I walked around the camp. I was filled with something way beyond what’s seen. I was getting a lens on a universe of light and good not fully apparent to the material senses. I was acknowledging, joying in, feeling the essence of – yes, feeling deeply grateful for – the fact that God, and the universe that reflects Him, is a present reality. In fact, I was a part of that universe, spiritual and whole as His reflected idea.

It's difficult to put that kind of gratitude into words. But the result was an immediate and complete healing of that wrist condition, which has never bothered me again in more than 40 years since that time.

Mrs. Eddy encouraged, “Hold thought steadfastly to the enduring, the good, and the true, and you will bring these into your experience proportionately to their occupancy of your thoughts” (Science and Health, p. 261). The outward blessings in life come, and are cause for gratitude, but they are not the essence of what I’m grateful for. To me, that feeling of connection – of oneness with the spiritual universe – is the deepest cause for gratitude. The essence of life is the enduring spiritual reality we experience and which cannot be diminished or taken away. It is the awakening to already existing abundant freedom, joy, peace, purpose, and opportunity within us.

Now that’s something worthy of deep, enduring thanks. That kind of gratitude is a powerful force in our lives. There are daily thanksgiving opportunities year-round, giving deeper meaning, deeper insight into our lives, as well as outward, tangible progress.

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