My peers will remember a particularly nasally song from the early 1990’s entitled Place in This World, by Mr. Michael W. Smith and a certain Amy Grant (I love you, Amy!). The chorus lyrics have brought me to self-pitying tears well past my adolescent years–
“looking for a reason…roaming through the night to find my place in this world…”
Who am I? Why am I here? And for that matter, who are YOU? And why are you here? Here’s a scary nugget of truth: The more uncertain I am of my present place, the less appreciative I am of anyone else’s.
There are many remedies offered for this lost-ness that range from career-counseling, to words of affirmation, to small groups, to adventure challenges. But nothing has soothed the wound like GRATITUDE.
I read something the other day:
“Every occasion for gratitude is in some way a recognition that we belong to the world and to our fellow beings, that we exist in the community. Practicing gratitude can restore us to our rightful place in the world.”*
What is it about a walk at twilight, or a leisurely dinner with friends, or intimacy with one’s spouse that hits our “re-set” button so? The appreciation that overwhelms us at these events is awe…gratitude. It centers and calms us. It reaches into pits and pulls us out. Or conversely, it brings us gently down from high places, to meet on level ground those we have clambered over.
Thomas Merton says, “To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything.” So, we know he gives good gifts like twilight, but what does this say about crisis moments? How can those bring us reckoning? I have to believe that practicing awe means that we can find our rightful places in awkwardness and pain, as well. We can find our places by digging for goodness in the heap of ugly. We find our places when we touch broken people and allow them to touch us. We find our places when we recognize Love in the Other.
Gratitude, then, helps us belong. And as we belong, awe will grow until we cannot stand for anyone to be excluded from this belonging. Arms are opened, invitation is extended.
And so, we fall in place.
(*quote from Alan Jones and John O’Neil, in their book Season of Grace: The Life-Giving Practice of Gratitude)