It all started at Bible study in April, an idea birthed from three harping complainers (me being one). We had broken off into smaller groups, and the three of us gathered on the couch, assigned to share prayer requests and pray for each other. Except sharing quickly devolved into complaining: “I never expected that I’d still be single/at this dead-end job/struggling with this issue at this point of my life,” we took turns saying. As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions,” and that night we invited the battalions to set up shop at our pity party.
Then one of us, who clearly had her head screwed on a little straighter than the rest, pointed out all that we had: a community, a God-centered church, a place to sleep at night, and, greatest of all, salvation. We sat quiet, convicted, but then asked, “How can we remember all that God has given us?”
On that seemingly inconsequential night, we came up with a plan. Taking advantage of a tool we use everyday—Facebook—we would force ourselves to take the unnatural step of being grateful. Each day for a week, we’d post a status of what we were thankful for, and tag the other two, so we’d all be notified and reminded of the blessings sprinkled through our lives.
The next morning, I awoke to two red notifications on my Facebook: one of my friends was thankful for the beauty of waterfalls, the other for friendship and accountability. I started going through my day thinking of what to write for my status, creating a mental list of the things I had to be grateful for: a job that allows me to speak Truth openly, California sunshine, tree-lined streets, watching a friend get married, soy green-tea lattes.
Anyone who has ever kept up a personal blog knows how the expectation of posting something new each day makes you look at everything as a potential blog post. The Facebook status challenge made me look at every life event as a potential opportunity for thanking God. Suddenly, I had trouble figuring out what to write for my status, not because I had too little to be thankful for, but because I had too much and couldn’t pick just one. Every breath was undeserved. On April 26, after reading the Bible, I wrote, “Thankful that our God isn’t bound by the limitation of human logic or understanding, but is so beyond and above us that there will always be mystery and awestruck wonder.”
The one-week experiment lasted nearly a month. We noticed the changes in each other as we met for Bible study: less complaining, more joy. We couldn’t believe how something as silly as Facebook statuses could change our worldview. Other friends joined us, filling my newsfeed with declarations of thankfulness.
This month I decided to start my thankfulness posts again, in anticipation of Thanksgiving. On Nov. 6, I walked outside to find my bumper coming unhinged from my car on one side. Worried, I drove to my mechanic, Vinnie, who was in the middle of eating a breakfast wrap. He put down his food, and in less than five minutes he popped the bumper back into place, sending me off with a joke and a smile. Vinnie was the object of my gratefulness that day. On Nov. 10, I was “thankful that in the quiet recesses of my life—the moments before slumber, times of private despair and euphoria—I am never alone. That in Christ I have an ever-present companion deeper and richer than any human can provide.”
But some days the task seemed daunting. On Nov. 12 I felt upset and stressed and didn’t want to write anything. The status bar stared blankly at me. Finally, I typed, “Thankful for grace when I’m not feeling grateful and instead just want to complain.” Other days I could see the good even amid the difficult. After a long, honest talk with my friend in her car, I wrote on Nov. 23, “Thankful for real talks because real friendships with real people take real work.”
With tomorrow being Thanksgiving, I feel like this year I better understand how much I’ve been given. The statuses changed my view of God and revealed to me how I’ve been blessed to be a blessing. Circumstances may not have changed from that April night at Bible study, but I’ve been given new eyes to see, all with the help of Facebook and the question it silently asks me every time I sign on: “What are you thankful for today?”