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’s 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.
Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey
This speaks to me very clearly at the moment, when God seems to be leading me step by step through the pathways that led me here, stopping every now and again to point out some little thing, some sudden glint of grace, or some still aching heartbreak that bridged some otherwise impassable divide between life and faith.
For nearly 25 years, now, I have known Romans 8.28 to be the defining verse of the Bible for me. There is so much pain, so much wrong in this broken and still beautiful world, and my life has been shadowed by both, and has caused both in its turn. Yet in all things God does work for the good of those who love him; and he has brought such peace, and such light, out of the darkest times, that I find myself more and more entangled in the purposes of this verse, and more and more dependent on the mercy it implies. The shadow of the Cross lies over it all.
As this odd journey goes on, my prayer draws down to this, too. I am so enmeshed in the the fallenness of the created world (I think this is what is meant by original sin) that, like everyone, every thing I do or think or say affects all creation for better or for worse. We are here, and nowhere else. We cannot ask for mercy for ourselves without asking for mercy on all that is made; our cry for justice is the cry of all the oppressed, now and since the beginning. This is the only way my prayer can work at all—perhaps it is the only way prayer ever works. It is how the Cross itself works, how its sacrifice is continually opened for us again in every Mass…
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner…