Gratitude for the challenges …

{NOTE: If you have recently been through great pain and loss, this post may not be for you at this time. Please be gentle and listen to your inner being.}

Thanksgiving day is approaching and I’d like to offer a twist on the usual message “be grateful for all the gifts you’ve been given”. Let me begin with these lyrics from the band, Cloud Cult:

It’s easy to be thankful for the things you’ve got.
It takes guts to give thanks for the things you’ve lost.

They struck me as extremely powerful when I first heard them. As I think back on events in my life which represent loss or challenge or great pain, I notice the gifts. Here are just a few:

  • NOT getting the job I was most qualified for in 1981 (actually, being offered it and then having the offer rescinded!) made space for my fellow university student employee to suggest that I apply for a job at Lawrence. Thirty years later I retired from this job which was a perfect fit in so many ways!
  • Marrying into alcoholism, while filled with challenge as well as loss of my ideas of marriage and family life, brought me face-to-face with my own unhealthy addictions, a path forward for my own healing, and connections which led directly to spiritual and creative expansion that I may not have discovered otherwise.
  • Breaking my foot just as I was using my yoga practice to guide me as I transitioned into life coaching led to the beginning of a regular meditation practice and the benefits it offers. This, after years of knowing I should meditate but finding myself unwilling.

Now I wouldn’t have asked for job rejection, alcoholism or a broken foot, yet each of these have led to life transforming experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything! These lyrics from the song, “What I Need”, suggest that life doesn’t always give us what we want, yet if we are willing to be with what is and learn, we discover that life is actually supporting us:

‘Cause I prayed for strength
And I got pain that made me strong
I prayed for courage
And got fear to overcome
When I prayed for faith
My empty heart brought me to my knees
I don’t always get what I want
I get what I need

~Karen Taylor-Good and Jason Blume

This Thanksgiving, consider spending some time looking back on life’s challenges, pain and loss. While it may be emotionally difficult, see if you can discover a gift previously hidden by the darkness.

Where has life “disappointed you” with what you need?
What has become possible because of pain or loss?
How have you grown through challenge?

What are you grateful for?

What is YOUR wisdom?