Thursday, January 3, 2019

Happy Birthday to Me? I am Grateful...

Yesterday, I turned 56 years old.

It's good to be alive... as I was reminded by family around the table, and - of course - yummy FOOD.😉

I'm still here. Still alive. Indeed, still astonished by this whole wild mysterious reality of existing.

I have lamented some sorrows and groaned through some pains and burned away too much time with impatience. I have grumbled too often when I have had no reason to complain. By any standard, I have received so much that is wonderful and beautiful and good in all my years on this earth.

Yet there are so many things that are beyond my power to dominate and control, that have been given to me for a season of life only; and there is so much that remains frail and limited.

But I am grateful for my life ... so grateful, beyond all else.

Sometimes I actually feel grateful, even when I'm perplexed or troubled. But this is not about sentimentality. It can be helpful to "count our blessings" as a reflection on the value of trust, but not as a science that might somehow take away the restlessness and the riddle of life. Real gratitude can only embrace the whole of life without resolving its mystery and strangeness and longings.

Certainly, I'm grateful for many things, many experiences and accomplishments, and above all for my loved ones, my precious family: these special people who have been entrusted to me, as a help and as a responsibility, that give a particular and intimate focus to my life. But even these relationships appear on the horizon of my freedom, which is awakened and provoked by them only to discover a further summons that echoes through the silence of my own solitude.

I'm old enough to know that the deep-down-solitude of myself is not "solved" or "filled" by anything in this world: not marriage and family, not comfort, not study and intellectual achievements, not music, not even food! (believe me, I've tried it all!😮)

I'm grateful for all these signs in life, some of which are beautiful even in the ways they change. Still they change, they pass on through time and space, they are signs because - whatever very real value they bring to life - they ultimately lead beyond themselves, they launch new questions and open up deeper dimensions of hope within me, and they are not enough for that aching search in the depths of what can seem like my inexplicably lonely self.

But they are a promise, they remind me that human persons are not destined for ultimate loneliness, that my soul cries out because it is made to be heard, and that its cries are being heard in this moment, on the other side of my strange solitude.

And so I am grateful even for my poor, needy, unsatisfied, seemingly insignificant, indeed "accidental" self. Nothing is clearer to me than the fact that my own existence is not necessary to the essential structures of this universe.

And yet, here I am, begging, hoping, expecting that my life matters, that it has meaning and value. The only thing that explains my longing for an all-encompassing fulfillment is the fact that I have been given to myself and called, freely, to a destiny beyond myself and beyond this universe.

I am "here" because I am loved.

I am grateful for this gift, this love beyond the stars that whispers in the depths of my heart and hears my cries. And in this world, I am grateful especially to the people who are with me, who also live by this love and hope in it.

In the end, gratitude wins! We just need to make space in our hearts for it. Even a tiny bit of space at the bottom of all our bitterness is enough for a new beginning.