Ann Voskamp’s contemplative and thought-provoking book One Thousand Gifts chronicles her e-mail challenge from a friend to write a list of 1,000 things she loved, a quest which would enable her to view the totality of her life through the gaze of her seeing inner soul’s eyes upon a saving God. Ann, whose names means “full of grace’, did not experience grace, joy and thanksgiving (eucharisteo) as a young child. When Ann was 4 years old, her younger sister Aimee was killed in a tragic accident that traumatized her entire family’s world-view for years. In Ann’s words, they “snapped shut to grace”.
Significant loss affects our sight. We focus on all that isn’t– holes, lack, deficiency. Our natural tendency is to write our ending to the story, not comprehending that we don’t know what our dream ending would hold, that only God knows how our story works out and where it leads. We need to adopt the fresh perspective that the losses which puncture our world actually are places to see through to God. Eucharisteo is the key. The author notes that our response must be intentionally active, never passive.
Naming our blessings is a learning process that begins with child-like wonder and an acknowledgement that blessings come from God. Thanksgiving creates a sanctuary of God’s presence and slows down the torrent of time by directing our full attention to moments of God’s grace, in good times as well as painful ones. Ann adds that we are most fully alive when we are beholding God. The secret to joy is to “keep seeking God where you doubt that He is.” God’s grace must flow freely, so that in our gratitude for blessings received we in turn become the blessing. Fundamental to this fulfilling, meaningful life is the principle that what God thinks of us is infinitely more important than how we think about God. Ultimately, only full communion with God gives life.