The past couple months, an abundance of house guests, viruses, and worries over our son’s health have left us feeling short on free head- and heart-space. Over dinner one night, Conor was lamenting about how difficult it has felt to find God when our margin feels so small. I recalled a story I’d heard in a sermon about a pastor with young children who had come to the realization that unless he found God in the changing of the diaper, he wasn’t going to find God at all.
This all sounds quaint and full of spiritual idealism, but when I actually think about the demands of a day - responding to emails, work meetings, cooking dinner, running errands, and even changing diapers - I’m left wondering about the actual mechanics. How do I find God -- really feel his presence -- in these spaces?
I posed this question to a friend, and in response, she offered me this daily gratitude practice. She told me the most spiritually wise people she knew were full of gratitude and appreciation for beauty. She challenged me to practice this daily for a month and see what happened. Her exercise went something like this:
Every morning, think back on something you were grateful for from the day before. Ask God to show you.
Reflect on how that thing revealed God’s love to you.
Take a moment to feel that love in your body.
(Repeat 2 more times)
I decided to take on the challenge, but initially I had trouble connecting her solution (a daily gratitude practice) to my problem (finding God in the humdrum moments of my day). Over the month, the things that filled my heart with gratitude surprised me in how small and unexpected they were. The toothy, in-your-face grin of my toddler as I tickled his belly showed me God’s love through his uninhibited and infectious joy. The care my dad took as he patched holes and caulked sinks around my house during his visit over the holidays showed me God’s love through his attention to the smallest details that only I thought were important. Pruning our hydrangeas on a cold but sunny day showed me God’s love through the freshness and expansiveness of nature and the satisfaction of working with my hands.
The gratitude exercise helped me to not only identify these things in my mind, but actually feel the warmth of God’s love and presence in my body. The practice had me tracing lines between God and seemingly insignificant moments in my day, connections that had always been there but were previously invisible to me. The more I practiced this, the shorter those lines got and the closer God seemed in the moment.
With the new year ahead, my desire is to continually turn my posture towards gratitude and see what God does.