Few things abort a heart of gratitude like the sin of pride. In our pride we grumble when we don’t receive because we didn’t get what we deserved; and when we do get it, we still aren’t grateful because after all we deserved it anyway. But then we start focusing on the goodness and the greatness of God…and something starts changing inside. The more we focus, the more aware we become.
In fact there is a science behind this principle…it’s all about the reticular activating system. This is the part of the brain that acts as a filter for information. It’s the part of the brain that allows you to sleep at night through all the normal sounds of your house, but then to wake up at the sound of the ruffling pajamas of your child as they walk into your bedroom.
Seven years ago, Lynn gave me permission to get a motorcycle. After almost 25 years of marriage she gave me permission to buy a motorcycle. So I started looking, thinking, dreaming, checked into getting a license, etc. But then I started thinking about how I drive my car… I’m an easily distracted driver. I love looking around and sometimes I need to pull myself back to the road.. So I started thinking that it might not be such a good thing on a motorcycle. So I decided, the best compromise between a car and a motorcycle is a jeep. When we were in Hawaii on my sabbatical, we rented a jeep. Oh man I loved it! But here’s what my reticular activating system did…once I decided to buy a jeep…everywhere I went I saw jeeps. I didn’t think Jeeps even existed in State College and all of a sudden that’s all I could see.
Gratitude refocuses our reticular activating system to God. We become aware of his goodness and greatness. We begin to recognize his whisper. We start seeing God’s jeeps. How? It starts with a conviction and a decision. The conviction is that God is great and good…so I will decide to look for and focus on his greatness and his goodness. Brennan Manning once said…
I believe that the real difference in the American church is not between conservatives and liberals, fundamentalists and charismatics, nor between Republicans & Democrats. The real difference is between the aware & the unaware.
So how do I refocus my reticular activating system to God? Make a gratitude list. Take a moment or three today and make a list of the things, the people, the events, the moments in life for which you are grateful. That after all is the heart of Thanksgiving!