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Gratitude and Grace
Gratitude and Grace

Gratitude on the Move

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Grace and gratitude belong together like heaven and earth. Grace evokes gratitude like the voice of an echo. Gratitude follows grace like thunder lightning. —Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, 4.1

Author Anne Lamott writes of the natural movement of gratitude from our hearts in prayer to our lives in action:

Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior…. We mysteriously find ourselves willing to pick up litter in the street, or let others go first in traffic….

You breathe in gratitude, and you breathe it out, too. Once you learn how to do that, then you can bear someone who is unbearable. My general-purpose go-to mystic Rumi said, “There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground,” [1] and bearing the barely bearable is one of the best.

When we go from rashy and clenched to grateful, we sometimes get to note the experience of grace, in knowing that we could not have gotten ourselves from where we were stuck, in hate or self-righteousness or self-loathing (which are the same thing), to freedom. The movement of grace in our lives toward freedom is the mystery. So we simply say “Thanks.” Something had to open, something had to give, and I don’t have a clue how to get things to do that. But they did, or grace did.

Lamott writes of the exponential flow of gratitude in our lives:

Saying and meaning “Thanks” leads to a crazy thought: What more can I give? We take the action first, by giving—and then the insight follows, that this fills us. Sin is not the adult bookstore on the corner. It is the hard heart, the lack of generosity, and all the isms, racism and sexism and so forth. But is there a crack where a ribbon of light might get in, might sneak past all the roadblocks and piles of stones, mental and emotional and cultural?…

How can something so simple be so profound, letting others go first, in traffic or in line at Starbucks, and even if no one cares or notices? Because for the most part, people won’t care—they’re late, they haven’t heard back from their new boyfriend, or they’re fixated on the stock market. And they won’t notice that you let them go ahead of you.

They take it as their due.

But you’ll know. And it can change your whole day, which could be a way to change your whole life. There really is only today, although luckily that is also the eternal now. And maybe one person in the car in the lane next to you or in line at the bank or at your kid’s baseball game will notice your casual generosity and will be touched, lifted, encouraged—in other words, slightly changed for the better—and later will let someone else go first. And this will be quantum.

The movement of grace toward gratitude brings us from the package of self-obsessed madness to a spiritual awakening. Gratitude is peace.


[1] Lamott offers a familiar translation of Rumi, Mathnawi 81. See The Quatrains of Rumi, trans. Ibrahim Gamard, Rawan Farhadi (San Rafael, CA: Sufi Dari Books, 2008), 391.

Anne Lamott, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers (New York: Riverhead Books, 2012), 56, 58, 60–61, 62–63, 64–65.

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Loïs Mailou Jones, Textile Design for Cretonne (detail), 1928, watercolor on paper, Smithsonian. Loïs Mailou Jones, Eglise Saint Joseph (detail), 1954, oil on canvas, Smithsonian. Alma Thomas, Red Abstraction (detail), 1959, oil on canvas, Smithsonian. Click here to enlarge image.

This street scene reminds us of the ordinary, loud, multi-colored, sun and shade gift of life.

Story from Our Community:  

Working at my desk, I looked out of my window and was mesmerized by the beauty of the sun shining on the leaves. It was a very cloudy day (and so was my mood) and it filled my soul with joy and gratitude. I’m trying to be more centered and mindful so I won’t miss God’s sacred gifts in the future. —Cherie H.

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