What is gratitude but grace in action revealing already present resources and possibilities awaiting our discovery? What if gratitude is the narrow path that leads to better ways of seeing and being? What if gratitude is the antidote to fear and loss? What if gratitude is a redemptive response to anger and hate? What if gratitude for all things and in all things opens the way toward positive change? What if gratitude is light?

Light is not something we see. Light is that which illuminates and reveals what we see. Light is that which spotlights our fears, exposes our divisions, illuminates our possibilities, highlights the benefits of community, inclusion and loving the other. It seems so easy to focus on the darkness, the gloomy caves in which our individual and corporate dragons hide. It is so tempting to misinterpret our dark sides as stronger than our hopeful, grateful selves. It is so easy to focus on what is wrong instead of what is right. But, we do so at our peril. Gratitude for the good that is always present can open the way to our finding common ground, common values, common longings, common hopes.

As human beings we are presented with the paradoxical challenge of embracing the present moment as all there is, even as we move into an unknown, often frightening future. This business of living demands courage and grace. We have only the present moment accessible to us. Since the past is gone, the future yet to arrive, we get to choose if we will enjoy this moment we are in or be miserable. We get to choose if we will be grateful or ungrateful, how we enter into an unknown, God-framed future.

Christian Scripture reminds us that The Light shines in the darkness. Some days, some periods of history such as we are in now, seem dark indeed. Political polarization. Religious bickering. Racial tensions. Economic insecurity. Some days it’s hard to see even a glimmer of light in the darkness of our human discord and suffering. And yet the promise remains. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness can never put it out.

So, what is gratitude but light, grace in action revealing already present resources and possibilities at our disposal? What is gratitude but a focused beam illuminating salvation not as a personal something waiting us out there in the future but the coming together now as caring community? Making space for others? Giving and receiving? What is gratitude but the much needed antidote to our fears and loss? What is gratitude when things seem bleakest but that which frees our best selves to move toward the safety and security we long for?

The divine promise is this: when we can be grateful for something, anything however small, the Light that shines in the darkness of everyday life and experience will illuminate our path forward revealing a way filled with possibilities, love, an accepting place for everyone belonging one to another in The Great I am.

Joyce Shutt is pastor emeritus of the Fairfield Mennonite Church.

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