The hallmark of a truly “simple” life is gratitude. “Gratitude is the heart of faith,” writes Mary Jo Leddy, author of Radical Gratitude. In this vein, she relates a lovely prayer of gratitude the Jewish people pray every Passover as they celebrate the deliverance of the Hebrew people from Egypt. The prayer centres around the Hebrew word Dayenu, which in English means, It would have been enough.
– If you had only led us to the edge of the Red Sea but not taken us through the waters, it would have been enough.
– If you had only taken us through the Red Sea but not led us through the desert, it would have been enough.
– If you had only led us through the desert but not taken us to Sinai, it would have been enough.
Leddy suggests using this template as a helpful spiritual exercise in reflecting on one’s own life. For example: If I had only been born but not had a twin sister, it would have been enough. If I had only had a twin sister but hadn’t visited Orcas Island, it would have been enough. If I had only seen the sun set off Otter’s Point, but hadn’t experienced a snowfall in the Rockies, it would have been enough.
When we are satisfied with our lives as being enough, we are able to resist the whispers of consumerism that tell us we don’t have enough or we are not enough. When our sense of satisfaction is rooted in an amazement at the givenness of every gift—from friends to home to our very own lives—then we are grounded in the firm grace of abundance.
Gratitude’s starting point is wonder. I love what the Jewish theologian Abraham Heschel says about true spiritual living: “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement.” He encouraged his students to take nothing for granted. “Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.” The amazement comes as we realize everything we have and every gift we experience is pure grace. To be born would have been enough, but then I’m given a loving family. Wow! To be raised in a loving family would have been enough, but then I am surrounded by caring mentors. Amazing! We are invited not only to consider the big gifts, but the little gifts as well—the light slanting through the fir trees on a fall afternoon or the caress of a small child’s hand on our arm. It’s all grace. It’s all amazing. It all warrants our gratitude.
Leah Kostamo and her husband Markku have worked for the past ten years to establish the ministry of A Rocha in Canada (arocha.ca). As part of A Rocha’s work they established a Christian environmental center on the coast of British Columbia. The center is a hub for a myriad of conservation, education and sustainable living activities. Leah blogs about their salmon saving, stranger welcoming, and organic gardening adventures at leahkostamo.com.