The morning was dark. I realize it’s not surprising that it was dark at 6:30 a.m., but somehow it seemed extra dark that Sunday. Maybe it was the fog that seemed to roll down over my car and encircle me so that I could just barely see through it. My headlights created short pools of light on the road in front of me. Other cars would just sort of appear in a white glow and then disappear as they passed by.
I must confess, I grumbled. I wish I hadn’t. After all I was going to lead worship at three services that morning. I wish I had been that person who embraced the fog and the dark and claimed excitement about the possibilities of the morning ahead. But instead, I grumbled.
It occurred to me that I should be grateful for the day, fog and all, but somehow it felt difficult to offer a prayer of thanksgiving when it was so dark. But I did it anyway. I spoke somewhat testily into the gloominess of my car, “God, it’s dark and foggy and that’s how I feel this morning, but I would like for my heart to be bright on this day of worship. So even though right now I don’t feel terribly grateful, I want to say thank you for this day.”
It was not a prayer to be proud of, but I had enough self-discipline left in me to know that offering it was a good idea. And here is what astonishes me about God. My attitude was bad that morning. I woke up in a grumbly mood. I had no real reason to be cranky or complaining. I had enjoyed a warm bed, clean water, a car in which to drive to work and a husband who made me hot tea. I offered an imperfect prayer of gratitude.
Yet as I sat at the stoplight, I felt the Holy Spirit say; “I am all the light you need. I can burn off fog and I can lift the darkness.” I deserved to be ignored, but instead I was blessed. I find it remarkable that God would offer me comfort and hope given my attitude that morning.
Here’s what I think. God knows us. God is not surprised at our cranky, self-focused moments. God appreciates our attempts to step outside of ourselves. So even my pitiful prayer of gratitude was met with God’s usual boundless love. I certainly did not deserve it, but it was freely offered, and I gratefully received the gift. I was changed for the better.
Gratitude has power. More than just an expression of thanks, it can transform the giver. The reminder of God’s presence made me nicer that day, more open to the possibilities of worship and actually eager to cut through the fog and darkness so that I could greet the day.
As I was getting out of my car and enjoying the feeling, I realized the Holy Spirit wasn’t quite done. Added to the warm fuzzy feeling was a distinct prod. It wasn’t painful and it didn’t feel like a ‘gotcha’ moment, but it was a clear word. “Now that you’ve remembered you are not alone and that I am enough, stop for a moment. Look at where you are and what you have and take time to be truly grateful, not grumpily grateful or minimally grateful but truly grateful.”
That’s just like God, helping change a poor attitude and then reminding me to take the next faithful step toward deeper gratitude. Not because God needs my gratefulness but because the more grateful I am, the more aware I am of God. When I’m more aware of God, the less chance I have of allowing darkness and fog to win. I’m hopeful that when the next dark morning comes, instead of sitting in grumpiness, I remember God’s closeness and offer a prayer of thanksgiving.