Wednesday, February 21, 2007

November: Gratitude III

by Troy Chapman

(published November 06)

Well, we’re coming to the end of November and our month of gratitude. I did take my own advice and went out the other day to break bread with the earth. As I took out the cracker I’d brought along and held it in my hand I felt more self-conscious than thankful. But I made myself look at the trees and the ground, listened to the squirrels and various birds and try to say thank you from my heart. What actually came out was: I desperately want a connection with you. Which is, I suppose, if I’m willing to let go of my agenda, as important as feeling gratitude: just to acknowledge my disconnection and ask for more connectedness.

So I stood there and reached out. I ate my cracker knowing it came from the earth and I thought about loss, about something being severed between me and my larger self. Then I crumbled the other half of the cracker and laid it down where it came from. I stood there for a minute and listened to the wind, watched it ripple the grass at my feet, and walked away.

It’s said that old testament law was handed down by God not because he expected us to follow it — he would know better, wouldn’t he? — but to reveal our inability to follow it. I guess the point was to teach us humility, to get us to admit our need for grace which, from the Christian perspective, was Stage 2 of God’s plan.

My commitment to thankfulness this month has served the same purpose. I tried to read my prayer every day but only succeeded about three quarters of the time. I tried to be consciously grateful (or just conscious) but I’ve been distracted by pains, pleasures, plans, busyness, desires, and dislikes.

But the commitment made this distraction visible. It revealed my need for grace, so to speak, and I find myself feeling grateful for that. Grateful and more compassionate toward myself and others. If the purpose of spiritual work is not accomplishment but rather insight, then this month has been a spiritual success despite my failure to live up to my own commitment and overcome my distractedness completely. And isn’t that how the cracker often crumbles in spiritual matters?