The Discipline of Gratitude: A Reflection on Lent

One of the primary metaphors of Lent is darkness. We spend most of our time in Lent giving things up and walking into the places we would normally avoid. But we often forget that this process does not have to feel burdensome, nor does it always require giving something up. One of my favorite Lent posters I used in youth ministry speaks to this:


(note: I have no idea where I got this originally, but in looking for it again I saw that it is also a book title. Who knew?)

The goal of Lent is not misery. Lent is a journey which is headed somewhere. What Lent does for us is help us have new eyes to see. Resurrection eyes. So whatever disciplines we undertake, the goal is to see the world with resurrection eyes.

One of my main areas of focus this year has been gratitude. Each day I am spending time reflecting in gratitude over my day. All of the disciplines I am doing are to help me be more present and grateful in my actual life.

The weird thing is: I need the discipline and the fasting to do this. It is not a natural bent in my life. Seeing the world with grateful, Resurrection eyes is a discipline.

David Cooperrider has what he calls the “heliotropic principle.” Heliotropic plants move towards their light source. Coopperider believes that the healthiest systems and people move towards what is already bringing them light. We go in the direction of whatever we focus on, so to be the best version of ourselves, we focus on the positive and the good things already in place.

Heliotrope2This is what we do in gratitude. We see the places God is moving and we focus in on them. The reflection I am doing reminds us this process is not “counting our blessings” but “savoring our blessings.”

I love that.

As we savor the good things in our lives and recognize the Source from which they come, and we move in healthier directions.

Sarah talks about how, as Christians, we refer to the Kingdom of God as both now and not yet. But we tend to spend all our time focusing on the not yet – the ways the world is broken and unfinished.

When we begin to focus on the now of the Kingdom, we begin to see the ways God is already moving and working in our lives and in our world. As we see God moving, we see the invitation God is offering to join in this work.

But we need Resurrection eyes. We need the discipline of focusing in on what is bringing light in our world. Sometimes that means we need to give things up and enter into a little bit of darkness so we can begin to see the source of the light, and the direction we require.

Focusing on the light and gratitude do not gloss over the darkness, they just give us direction within the darkness. If the goal was darkness, Lent would be all year. But in Lent, we move through the darkness and into the Resurrection light.

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