The Life Less Traveled
November 24, 2010
When my wife and I first got married, I had this wild, romantic notion to keep a secret thankfulness journal for her. Yeah, I know it sounds dumb, but I was young and in love. So, sue me.
Here's how it was supposed to work. Every day for a year I planned to write down one thing I loved about her. Then, I would surprise her the next Christmas with a year's worth of appreciation. I imagined when she opened it she would swoon and then cook me a really nice dinner. Women love that kind of stuff, right?
So, I went out one blustery January day, bought a pink, girly journal and began what I thought would be an easy way to score major points in my marriage. The first week was awesome. On day eight, however, I had a slight problem. I ran out of material. Now, don't get me wrong. It's not like my wife isn't great, but after about seven days, I thought I had written it all down. I am a guy, after all. We're not exactly known for our sensitivity and emotional intelligence.
Day 1: You're pretty.
Day 2: You're nice.
Day 3: You're pretty nice.
Days four through seven were more of the same. How in the world was I going to fill the other 51 weeks? Surely I could come up with something new to say. I mean, I am a writer. I have an English degree, for crying out loud. Words are supposed to be my thing.
Maybe I could just give it to her as is. Here you go, honey. Here's one week of wonderful things about you and plenty of blank pages for you to write about how much you love yourself.
Hmm, somehow that didn't seem like the best idea either. I had backed myself into a corner and couldn't see any way out. On day eight, I was ready to toss the thankfulness journal into the trash.
But then I had an eureka moment that made Archimedes' little bathtub discovery look like child's play. I realized that I was doing this thing all backward. When I sat down to write in the journal, I was reflecting on the previous day, but nothing stood out because I hadn't been looking for it.
What would happen, I wondered, if I went into each day searching for something I liked about my wife? What would happen if I sought out a quality to admire in her like a miner prospecting for gold? The funny thing was that as I started to pay attention, I began to see things I had totally missed before.
It was like one of those funky 3-D pictures that you have to stare at for few minutes before the image appears. Not only did I discover something new to be thankful for in Christy every day, but frequently I found multiple things. Soon, my journal began to overflow.
I was learning to focus what I call my gratitude vision.
The more I discovered, the more I appreciated her, and the more I appreciated, the easier it was for me to see the good stuff. Even on the days we fought, I still came back to that journal, and it forced me to record the things I didn't want to think about when I was pouting. It reminded me that I'd married the best girl in the world. God used it to correct my attitude over and over again.
At the end of the year, I gave her the journal. And yeah, she loved it, but I knew I'd really given myself the best gift of all, the ability to see in advance the things for which I would later be thankful.
What would a year look like if we all kept a thankfulness journal for our lives? What if we went into each day looking for the things for which we would later be thankful? What if we went prospecting for the good gifts of God each and every day? Would it change our attitudes? Would even our worst days glisten with diamonds in the rough?
I wonder if, just as my journal helped me fall more in love with my wife, each of us would fall more in love with life itself and the God who generously gives it.
Jason Byerly, a 1990 graduate of Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, is the children's pastor at Southland Christian Church near Lexington, Ky. He and his wife have two daughters. For more from Byerly, visit www.jasonbyerly.blogspot.com.