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.
When we allow ourselves to feel truly grateful, it blooms in our whole being. That’s what I witnessed in my husband’s face in that moment. And I know now that it is what I want to offer God each day.