We recently celebrated my husband Rudy’s birthday. It was a simple and completely unassuming celebration. It was not at all what I had envisioned for him (I have a tendency to want more fanfare.), but it was perfect for Rudy. As I watched him laugh and smile and comment on each card he opened, as I witnessed his unabashed delight in opening his gift, as I observed the way his eyes absolutely twinkled in the sunlight streaming through the window as we sang him the blessing song, I was reminded of what gratitude really looks like. For Rudy, it wasn’t about an elaborate party or a pile of presents, it was about being loved by his family and being truly happy, thankful for the many simple blessings in his life. I was so struck by his expression as we sang to him; that beautiful, goofy expression of joy and gratitude stays rooted in my memory.
That night as I prayed the Examen, I spent some time considering gratitude. Gratitude is a big part of the Examen, and it is a part I faithfully list off each day. But therein lies the problem—I spout off a list. Yes, the list is different each day, and I do put thought into it, but it’s still just a list lacking any emotional investment. It’s a far cry from the sincere gratitude I witnessed in Rudy. I know how offended I get when someone thanks me in a haphazard way that essentially tells me, “Etiquette rules require that I say thank you,” but that is exactly what I am doing to God in my Examen each day. That moment watching Rudy made me realize that I am missing the point of gratitude in prayer. I am not giving God the satisfaction of seeing my goofy expression of awe and excitement at having received all that I have from Him. I am not offering God that real gratitude that stems from the heart. From that birthday experience, I am learning that it’s not just about taking the time to thank God; it’s about really allowing myself to feel that gratitude with Jesus right there with me to share in it.