A Splotch of Gratitude
Last week in worship, I projected an image of a large ink splotch on the screen just prior to the offering. It looked something like this:
I asked people in the congregation what they saw, and there was a general murmur to the effect of: “Uh, pretty obvious, it’s a big splotch!!” I then encouraged people to look deeper, and see the actual screen on which the spot was projected, a screen that helps us sing together, read God’s word together, a screen purchased through the generosity of the church.
The exercise of looking past a surface splotch to discover a deeper reality is applicable on so many levels! Consider your spouse, or a close friend. Likely, you know many of their faults and foibles, and they yours! But, out of love and affection, most days we are able to look past those surface level blemishes (stubbornness, being judgy, perfectionism… just to name a few of my own) to see more deeply into the virtues, strengths, and attractive qualities that make you appreciate this other person with your truest heart.
To go even deeper, when confronted by a “splotch” in another person, it can help to enter the time machine of your imagination and remember a season or situation when the “splotchy” person whom you love was at their best, when their God-given gifts were operating at a high level, and to let that version of their personhood move front and center.
The same exercise can also be applied toward institutions: consider an Alma Mater or perhaps even your local church (hint, hint)! Because no institution is perfect, our short range vision can often perceive only the faults and shortcomings of said institutions and their staffs. But, the same splotch-related principles can be applied to help us rekindle appropriate levels of gratitude. Rather than merely seeing the pastor who preached too long last Sunday, or the musician who frequently plays the wrong sort of songs, we can look more deeply into a community that helps nurture our souls through faithfully opening the Bible, leading prayer, helping us sing together, gathering young and old for food, fellowship, study and fun. We can also use our spiritual imagination to time travel, focusing not only on this present moment, but also on the long legacy of graces that have come our way through a particular school, church, or non-profit organization.
If you find yourself feeling annoyed, or impatient, or less-than-fully-thankful during this Season of Gratitude, I encourage you not to look away from the imperfections and splotches that fill your field of vision. Rather, look at them deeply, more deeply… until you see what’s beyond.
As we do so, we begin to fulfill that Scripture that encourages us to embrace gratitude at every turn: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:16-17
– Pastor Gregg