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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving , gratitude and wellness

Ask any Sunday school grad what is the one biblical story that best exemplifies thankfulness, and the answer would probably be, “the one about the 10 lepers.” Do you remember this little story? Here is the Luke 17 version:  

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance,they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.

That one word “well” jumped out at me this weekend when I reread the story. Although all ten lepers were healed of their disease, the one who was truly thankful was made well. Wow. What a statement about how our attitude toward gratitude can impact our wellness.

Of course, it is much easier to be grateful for the obviously good events in our lives … where we are stretched in our faith is our ability to be thankful for the crucible experiences of life. To truly live in gratitude in those present moments that are not so pleasant, but are places where we meet Christ, where he walks beside us through the mud of our day. Henri Nouwen in Bread for the Journey reflects on this:

To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives--the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections-- that requires hard spiritual work.Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for. Let us not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.

I am always looking to creation for life lessons and the perfect image came to mind when thinking about thanksgiving, gratitude, and muddy moments. Yes, that surprising, persevering plant we call 'skunk cabbage' in the Pacific Northwest! Skunk cabbage blooms in mucky corners where no self respecting flower would want to be seen. But, for me, skunk cabbage heralds spring just as much as daffodils do. They certainly bloom where they are planted with stolid gratitude for the chilly, wet earth; with indifference to an audience other than the sun, turning muddy ground into a signpost of spring and new life. Not bad for a little, nondescript plant with such a nasty name. And even here there is a parallel: there can be no more nasty name than 'leper' ... but see how even the label of 'leper' has been redeemed by the action of this one who is overcome with gratitude and thankfulness and plunged into a new life of wellness.

Happy Thanksgiving! Be WELL!

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