Henri Nouwen, Here and Now: Living in the Spirit
How can we live a truly grateful life? When we look back at all that has happened to us we easily divide our life into good things to be grateful for and bad things to forget. But with a past thus divided, we cannot move freely into the future. With many things to forget, we can only limp into the future.
True spiritual gratitude embraces all our past – the good as well as the bad, the joyful as well as the sorrowful moments. From the place where we stand, everything that took place brought us to this place; and we want to remember all of it as part of God’s guidance. That does not mean that all that happened in the past was good, but it does mean that even the bad didn’t happen outside the loving presence and providence of God.
Jesus’ own suffering was brought upon him by the forces of darkness. Still, he speaks about his suffering and death as his way to glory.
It is very hard to keep bringing all of our past under the light of gratitude. There are so many things about which we feel guilt and shame, so many things we simply wish had never happened. But each time we have the courage to look at “the all of it,” and to look at it as God looks at it, our guilt becomes a happy guilt and our shame a happy shame because they have brought us to a deeper recognition of God’s mercy, a stronger conviction of God’s guidance, and a more radical commitment to a life in God’s service.
Once all of our past is remembered in gratitude, we are free to proclaim the “good news” to others. Just as Peter’s denials didn’t paralyze him, but once forgiven, became a new source of his fidelity, so can all our failures and betrayals be transformed into gratitude and enable us to become models and messengers of hope for others.