Last year, for Lent, I decided to do two (seemingly unrelated) things to become holier. One was to stop thinking negative thoughts about myself regarding my physical appearance. The other was to write letters to people who had been significant in my life.
To me, these were completely unrelated.
The whole positive-thought thing worked out really well. By the grace of God, even since then, I've been able to (for the most part) stop the "I'm so fat", "I'm so stupid", "my hair is awful"s. Honestly? It was never a huge problem to begin with, meaning that these weren't thoughts I often entertained. But I entertained them enough that it definitely made a huge different when I kicked them out. More on that and body image at the end of the month!
I was really excited about the letter writing thing. I wrote a list of people and planned to write a letter a day. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out that way...but I wrote many, many letters.
I wrote letters to old teachers. These were people who led me to Jesus, who deepened my intellect, and who were so genuinely interested in my life that they made me glad to be me. These things are big deals, you know? I began to wonder...how many people have been positively affected by teachers? And how many have actually told these amazing people how they have influenced them for the better?
I wrote letters to old friends. Some of these letters were actually kind of hard to write, because they were to people who had caused a lot of pain in my life. I didn't want them to be a rehashing of any sort, but an acknowledgement of whatever wonderfulness took place in the relationship. There is a time for honest confrontation, but I wanted these letters to be uplifting. I wanted their recipients to feel uplifted and loved, regardless of whatever had been said and done in the past. In some cases, I wanted certain people to know that I had forgiven them.
I wrote letters to people who were still in my life, who I talked to regularly. I felt like there are so many people who I see every day who don't know that they mean the world to me. I wanted to thank them for simply being them, for loving me, for encouraging me, or whatever the case may be.
I remember, mid-Lent, feeling so happy, which really confused me. My soul felt like it was constantly smiling, which was odd, because a lot was going on in my life that was giving me plenty of reasons not to smile. Nevertheless, I was inexplicably happy.
And, bam, then it hit me. Out of the blue, like this crazy April snow.
I was focused on other people. I was focused on using my words to serve them, to uplift, rather than tear down. I was focusing on the positive aspects of these relationships, rather than the negative. I was living in a spirit of gratitude, being thankful for the wonderful things that God worked through the people around me. On top of that, I wasn't being negative about myself. I wasn't even thinking about myself.
I was discovering what so many people spend their lives searching for: the key to happiness. Friends, we must forget ourselves. We must adopt attitudes of gratitude and have our eyes turned from our own limitations to the Creator who has none.
As I mentioned, some of these letters were hard to write, let alone think about. People are so powerful: we have the power to hurt and to heal, and, believe me, I've been hurt. But I've also been healed. It's amazing how God can use flawed human beings, but He does, which is so beautiful.
My norm had been (and, at times, still is) to think all about the bad things that had taken place in relationships. I had (and sometimes have) habits of thinking about these hurts every day rather than cherishing the beautiful memories and moments currently happening. Hurt does need to be acknowledged, but shouldn't it be the other way around?
I feel like this sounds like such a cliche post. But we are so, so, SO obsessed with ourselves! We are obsessed with our weight, our hair color, how we appear online, who likes us, who hurts us...at times, we don't even stop to think about what a simple "thank you" could do to someone who we value. Beyond even that, what a "thank you for..." could do. Gratitude is something that is missing from our society of "me, myself, and I".
When I turned my eyes from all of my negativity and problems, I was able to love more fully. Not only those around me, but myself.
Writing those letters and giving up those thoughts...one of my happiest times in high school. Perhaps we need to think about the positive more than the negative...as well as talk about the positive more than the negative. I challenge you to think of a person who has touched your life and changed you for the better and LET THEM KNOW. Call them, write a letter, send a text, whatever.
Together, let's start a culture of being grateful and experience true happiness.
"And in all things, give thanks." --1 Thessalonian 5:18
I'm praying for you always.