Gratitude's Altitude: Getting Perspective on the Past

Updated: Feb 2

We all have people who poured into us early or even later on in life—the people who picked up the pen with God and believed enough in His purpose for us that they would give more than was required to be sure we had all the tools needed to fulfill that.

Have you ever thought about who you would thank if your life should take you to win a Pulitzer or Grammy?

"I'd like to thank [so and so] for pushing me to be my best."

Personally, I'd probably kick off by thanking my mom. Sure she raised me, but she also taught me for the better part of my education—grade school and high school.

Second grade and beyond, I loved the satisfaction of advancing, the affirmation of success and a good grade, but only when it was something I deemed interesting.

Of all the online teachers and professors I've sat under, mom made the most impact; yes, because she taught me in those early, formative years, but also because she provided an invigorating environment for my strengths and interests—a curriculum cultivating skills within my calling instead of distracting.

"I knew you were a writer," mom has told me, "the moment you made that book when you were seven."

I was provoked and engaged when given a task seemingly too-much for someone at my level.

I'll admit there were times when it seemed too much.

But I've learned a secret that I would love to share with you. You ready?

When I can look back on losses and victories alike with gratitude, I'm gaining a new level of leverage over my current challenges.

I can look at what's in front of me with the new illuminating truth; the truth that I've been here before. Sure, it may be a new life-level with increased intensity, maybe higher stakes, but if I'm living gratefully for where I've been, understanding that God was and is and will be my Teacher in all seasons to come, I can rest.

He's steadfast.

He's constant.

He's still above it all.

Just like He was, He will be. And if I can see who He has been, I can believe He's the same now. Faithfulness is the guarantee that I've known Him and will know Him to be my Champion.

So, I can live from a place of thank you. Thank You for how I have found You, God, in people, in moments, and in every place I go. It's positively weight-lifting.

I wrote this poem back at UNCW in April, and I'd like to share it with you now.

I'd Like To Thank

by Katherine Kwiatek

the black ladies that stand in the back of the church

for whooping and hollering and stirring up

the Spirit in the room when

all the old, white men were quiet as eternal separation

during the bridge, the climax,

the best part! and they missed it.

but you didn’t.

and that one teacher’s assistant in first grade

for entertaining my silly praying games; for—when I asked you

to go to one side of the playground, I to the other,

and come back to the picnic table with

a prophetic word—you smiled, and you did;

and for telling my mother later, tears streaming down,

how much my words meant to you

because now those words—your words to her about me—

hold me together and remind me constantly

who I can be.

and the girl in kindergarten who didn’t like me

for uninviting me to your birthday and making me so upset

I couldn’t go number two and had to

go to the ER

because—despite the trauma

of which (actually) half is erased from my memory—

you showed me how much

I internalize and treasure too much

what people do and say and think

of and about me—

because now I can learn not to care too much;

just enough to keep kindness rolling and roaring

like white water rapids.

and the man that I’ve loved four years and counting

for being a melody when I’m feeling like a harmony—feeling like

something different from what the rest of the room’s singing—

for complimenting my strength with your rich undertones,

for supporting my song like strong arms

protecting my frailty.

and just like that. i awake from the dream,

cuddling a Pulitzer like a teddy bear,

i remember.

what i forgot to say all those

years ago.

Moral of the story? Failure to thank can lead to regret regardless of accomplishment because it's connection that matters in the end.

But also, as I allude to in the poem, I'm sure we can all agree that many of the things we have learned didn't always come from a strait-forward curriculum plan or a heaven-sent gift. The school of hard knocks, as the cliché goes, has a heavy-bearing hand in our subconscious worldview and problem-solving, even the way we view ourselves and our purpose.

The past should never be allowed to worm its way into a dictatorship over our identity, but it would be naive to say it had no effect on who we've become.

My boyfriend has a phrase he lives by, and I've come to adopt it too.

"My past is my past, and my present is my present. But with God, it will not be my future," ~ Michael Ferrante

Our experience shapes us—it does not define us.

The bullies, the bad bosses, the obliviously betraying ex-boyfriends and girlfriends—all of the negative encounters with less-than-glittery people in our lives—gave something to us. We learned something, and if we haven't figured out what that is yet, we're not done learning from them just yet.

After Joseph had been dragged through so many highs and lows including (but not limited to) slavery, falsely being accused of sexual assault and being utterly forgotten in prison, he came face to face with the people who kickstarted all those traumatic events: his brothers.

He was in a place of leadership and provision now, and they were in his debt.

After getting super emotional, like, sending the whole courtroom out because he was overwhelmingly distraught, his brothers before him, do you know what he told them?

""As for you," he said, "you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive," (Genesis 50:20).

What mercy, what grace, what maturity and wisdom Joseph showed at that moment! But he went through a lot to get there, didn't he?

Healing is a process, and patience with our present imperfect understanding of our past is necessary if we're meant to lead healthy lives in the midst of the journey. It takes time to grow out of the pain of a momentary memory or relationship.

But when we're able to not only forgive but express gratitude for how God used those circumstances, those people, then we know we've truly rediscovered wholeness. Gratitude is an inevitable fruit of living from this revelation: what your enemy—who is not flesh and blood—set in motion to steal from you, to not just kill but destroy you completely, God has utterly flipped to instead favor you and serve His insanely intricate, perfect purpose.

His plans of hope for you can never be fully thwarted. Never. He's sovereign. Do you believe that? And that gratitude cuts the anchor that subconscious grudges would be, letting you go lift to new heights.

When you can get a handle over your past, you start living from a new perspective, a new altitude.

Gratitude is not an emotion—it's a chosen reality, a realm of being.

When we exist there with Him who is seated in heavenly places, the world is all of a suddenly brightened, our burden is lightened, and we see from heaven's point of view.


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