My husband and I have both been reflecting on the amazing perspective afforded by gratitude and the way that reflecting on our blessings even in the midst of hardship, fear, and sadness can be deeply healing and refreshing.
But that perspective is often lost on me.
It’s really tempting to look around and idolize other peoples’ lives, to assume that they’re better, perfect, or more satisfying than my own.
But this is but a distraction from a vital, necessary, but often perplexing step to contentment: acceptance.
It wouldn’t even matter how perfect someone else’s life is or isn’t, because it’s not mine.
And while this kind of language often sounds like settling or becoming complacent with unhappiness, you’d be surprised how freeing it is to rule out the pressure of living anyone else’s life but yours. We simply can’t be anyone else or live anyone else’s life but our own and by embracing that fact, suddenly a bit of the dissonance clears and we are free to focus on what we’ve been given, what we are thankful for, and what we might want to change.
Lately I’ve been trying to be passionately committed to embracing my own life as it is. And when I look around with eyes for only my life, I realize how richly God has blessed me and how thrilled I am to be living this life that is uniquely my own. I try (though I don’t always succeed) at even embracing the hard stuff, the bad with the good, praising God for it all. And when I reflect on who God has uniquely called me to be in this life, there’s also some wonder in the clarity. Things that do not help me fulfill that purpose can fall by the wayside; things that can help me serve God more fully can be added.
Try it this weekend.
Take a few moments to let the lives of others’ around you fade into the background and focus on embracing your life as it is. What can you see that perhaps went unnoticed before? Where is God fiercely, actively, passionately loving you in your life now? How can you better serve God with the life and the resources you have? How can you maintain that attitude of gratitude everyday?
This is one of my favorite posts to write, because it forces me to go through all the lessons of the previous year and cull together all that God has taught me and all that God is doing. 2014 was such an eventful year for me personally, with the birth of my daughter and the defense of my dissertation. Both of those have opened up some exciting conceptual space for me to dream and imagine my future vocation and God’s work in my life.
So Evan and I went and saw The Namesake on Thursday night, a movie directed by Mira Nair and based on the novel by Jhumpa Lahiri about the Ganguli family’s journey from India to America. Sensitively potrayed and visually striking, the movie is full of raw emotion: I had a lump in my throat empathizing with the lonely, lost feelings Ashima must have had in an arranged marriage that brought her to a foreign country, where she would lose both her father and her husband from a distance.
In between, however, she recognizes at the end of the film, in the words of mythologist Joseph Campbell, that her life was full of bliss, and she returns to her native India after these tragic deaths to follow her bliss, to sing and play the sitar as she did as a young girl.
As Ashima closes her eyes, to follow her bliss, to envision a time when she was truly happy, I realized the lump in my throat in this film stemmed just as much from the sadness as from the joy.
The story paints life as full–fully painful and fully joyful–when I close my eyes to see the fullest parts of my life, they do bring tears to my eyes because of the overwhelming blessing life itself is. It was good to just take a moment even in the midst of a dark theater and a colorful moving picture to be quiet, gracious, and reflective about how good life really is…