Lent 2015 Day 18 // Cultivating Love

Image by Melissa Clayton

Image by Melissa Clayton

Colossians 4:2Philippians 4:6; 1 Corinthians 14:1 

Cultivating a heart of gratitude is really about love. Or maybe I should say that love requires cultivating gratitude

St. Paul calls us to leave behind childish ways when he speaks of love being the greatest of the theological virtues (1 Cor. 13:11). A child loves his parents just because they're his parents, so he's thankful for them. Then after getting a little older, he realizes this doesn't have a strong foundation, and it doesn't hold up in every situation. He questions his unconditional love for his parents and has an obvious inability to be grateful for the gift of them in his life. Then after maturing further, after leaving behind childish ways, he is able to see and understand "gift" and gratitude in a new way - including seeing the exact things he complained about before as actual gifts that were for his good. Thus, a deeper and more true love of his parents is established. 

In the same way that it is childish in the material world to only see gifts as presents we receive at holidays - without recognizing the gifts of sacrifice from our family and friends - so it is in the spiritual life. It is childish to only see gifts as the really good things we like and which we easily recognize as coming from God. Ask any family who has cared for an elderly parent or who has a child with special needs, and you will learn that they have an ability to love greater because of their deep gratitude. They are able to see even suffering as a gift from God, and thus love Him stronger. Ask any married couple who has a thriving relationship after decades of marriage, and one of their secrets to success is bound to be gratitude for the other person. By seeing their spouse as a gift from God, they love both God and each other more deeply. 

So this is about cultivating a deeper, more mature gratitude so that our hearts can expand and love more. As women, our entire beings yearn to expand with love for others. We were physically and spiritually made to make room for another human being. And as we begin to work in concert with that uniquely feminine trait, we will find ourselves more fulfilled and more joyful, even in the midst of severe trials. 

Colossians 4:2 says, "Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving." Steadfast prayer will help us patiently cultivate the gardens of our hearts and grow in gratitude. For the next several days, each post will begin with Scripture and a prayer to show how we can find gratitude in all circumstances. 

Continue practicing thankfulness each day, and remember to "make love your aim" (1 Corinthians 14:1).