My entire last week was spent traveling, to my hometown and to the lake with some extended family. As a result, today’s post isn’t terribly well-researched. It won’t interact with any book or theologian, nor will it be anything you haven’t heard before. Today, I only offer a simple reminder, one that I received myself this week: notice and enjoy every gift God gives you.
I got to see lots of old friends and family last week, people I haven’t spoken with in a good while but should have. I sat in my parents’ living room, for the first time since Christmas, and watched an awful TV show with my dad. Some friends from high school and I grilled burgers and caught up, filling in the current details of our lives and reliving good memories. I floated in Lake Norfork with cousins I see far too little, and spent the night crammed into a camper with five other people. And as I cruised along the little country highways back to Birmingham, accompanied only by my wife and our favorite podcasts, I realized that in that whirlwind of a week I had been given so many tremendous gifts—too many to count.
It seems that we’re much better at recognizing God’s presence and activity in our lives after the fact. Most of the time, we need a little stretch of road behind us before we can see all the blessings we received before we left. But the trick to happiness—or, what transforms happiness into joy—is the ability to notice and enjoy the gifts being given to you in the moment. Many religious and spiritual movements have come to this conclusion, even if they use different language to make the point. This seems to be at the heart of the “mindfulness” movement; being present in the moment means to notice that God is constantly giving us precious gifts to be enjoyed. Even the Buddhist call to quit “grasping” for something else to make you happy has the ring of this truth to it.
Scripture also testifies to this. The Sabbath is a day to rest from work, from trying to better your situation, and enjoy what you have been given. And the commandments not to commit adultery, steal, and covet our neighbors’ relationships and property are invitations to delight in our own gifts. It’s a pretty universally accepted idea that we are a lot happier when we loosen our grip, look around us, and breathe a prayer of gratitude for what we already have.
St. James reminds us in his epistle that “every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (1:17a). You’ll recall that this exhortation doesn’t exactly come at a high point in the letter. This is an encouragement to people stricken with poverty, faithful followers of Jesus worn ragged by temptation and trials. To these people, James says, “Remember everything you’ve been given.” Every gift is from God—and there are so many gifts to be thankful for.
So this week, let’s try to open our eyes to the world around us and recognize all the ways God is blessing us in the moment. Every country road, every late night of reminiscing, every home-cooked dinner, every hug that is not a “goodbye” but an “until next time,” every rock and tree and blade of grass. We are being blessed beyond our wildest dreams. Will you choose to notice?