Some years ago, as I was walking through San Diego’s Balboa Park – the Spreckels organ pavilion to my back, the Museum of Art to my front – I found myself suddenly overcome by an almost overwhelming rush of gratitude that literally stopped me in my tracks. It lasted no more than 10 or 20 seconds, but within that brief moment it was as if everything I had to be thankful for, ever, paraded across my thought. My incredible family. My amazing friends. Opportunities to travel to extraordinary places around the world. My work, my home, my dog, my grade school teachers – you name it, I thought of it. All in under 20 seconds.
Even better than having so many things to be thankful for, however, was having something to be thankful to.
For as long as I can remember I’ve been inclined – by nature, I assume, but also through the encouragement of my parents and others – to see God as our always present and hugely generous source of good. Not material good, per se, but the kind of good that resides deep inside our hearts, unaffected and undiminished by whatever circumstances we might find ourselves facing that would try and convince us that, in fact, we have very little to be thankful for. A job loss. The passing of a loved one. Failing health.
Some might characterize this sense of God’s presence, God’s goodness, as nothing more than “peace of mind,” but I tend to think of it more in terms of divine assurance. It’s the best and, frankly, only way I can think of to explain that happiness and contentment we feel when there’s nothing in particular for us to feel happy about. And the interesting thing is, the more I find myself consciously paying attention to this assurance, giving God the credit for all things good in my life, the less I find myself being upended by life’s speed bumps; I literally feel better, both mentally and physically.
I want to be clear, though. For me, God isn’t some sort of Santa Claus in the sky doling out treats to those worthy enough of his/her love. As I see it, everyone is worthy of this love, this goodness – not in the sense of it being some sort of commodity, but as an essential element of that divine Principle that I feel certain we’re destined to discover governs one and all.
Looking back on those few seconds in Balboa Park, I can see that it wasn’t so much a feeling of “how lucky I am” but how fortunate we all are to be cared for in such practical ways – an insight that, to this day, inspires me to be and to do good for others to whatever extent I can.
In a letter to the members of a Christian Science church in New York, Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “As an active portion of one stupendous whole, goodness identifies man with universal good. Thus may each member of this church rise above the oft-repeated inquiry, What am I? to the scientific response: I am able to impart truth, health, and happiness, and this is my rock of salvation and my reason for existing.”
Indeed, we all have much to give to others, the realization of which comes from a deep-seated recognition of what we’ve already been given – and continue to be given – by God.