Early this morning I went out for a run. The sun had not yet peeked over the horizon, so the early morning coolness still hung in the air. The birds were chirping their announcement of the coming day as the dew gently painted the grass and leaves with its delicate brush. Perhaps, these words bring to thought an idyllic visual image of the morning mist rising, as the sun reveals the new day.
To be honest, today, I ran at a track that is in a field adjacent to a school. It is a field track that undulates with the natural topography of the land. As I ticked off the laps it occurred to me that there is a difference between visualizing or imagining something and experiencing it.
Usually, visualizing begins with the question, what would it be like…? Then imagination takes over and constructs an image in thought that defines what the experience should look and feel like. Here’s an example: I was reading a cookbook and came across a recipe that sounded delicious. I carefully followed the instructions, savored the aromas as it cooked…and it was awful! I couldn’t order out pizza fast enough! So my experience didn’t live up to my imagining or expectation.
So…what’s the difference? In a word – gratitude. When my life doesn’t live up to my expectations or my ideals, I’ve found it’s because of that little word “my.” By exercising an active practice of prayer I’ve come to look for God’s presence, even when life has a dire picture. So…gratitude. I look out at God’s creation and it’s easy to see beauty or joy. So, if I can see it in nature and I believe that I am God’s creation also, then I should see these qualities in my life and in those around me. It is gratitude that God is the source of these qualities and expression, not my imagination. Another facet to this idea is that I can see the beauty and grandeur of God right now. I don’t have to wait for another place or time.
When I have looked past myself and truly looked for the presence of God I have felt greater peace than any imagining could produce. Those are my moments of gratitude.