Last spring, I did something that I never thought I would do: I spoke in chapel. This was something that I had thought about for a long time. I always admired the people who would go up on stage in front of the whole school and share their testimonies. However, I could never see myself in that position. I have never had an easy time talking about my faith. I’ve never had a problem talking about faith as a concept, the Bible and how and why we worship, but talking about my personal relationship with Christ felt entirely different. I always felt rather guilty about that: Since I didn’t talk about my faith, did I even have faith? That idea had plagued me for a very long time, until one day I was talking about this with a friend of mine (who has now graduated) and he said that even though I don’t explicitly talk about my faith, he could see it implicitly through how I lived life. That had never really occurred to me before. The image of someone with strong faith for me was someone who could go up in front of a large group of people and share their faith story. That of course is a wonderful thing to do, and now that I have done so, I am happy that I did. As I have matured, I have come to realize that our testimonies do not have to look the same to be inspiring; sometimes a testimony is about relaying a practice or a belief that has revolutionized our faith and may do the same for others. That is what I shared about during chapel. Because for me, that transformative practice has been gratefulness journaling.
A big part of living my faith has been thankfulness for the gifts that God has given me. Thankfulness is also on my– and likely many of your–minds as we near Thanksgiving. During the spring of 2020 as our ‘two-week quarantine’ turned into months and months of online school, I began to do something new. Gratefulness journaling is the process of reflecting and writing about what you feel grateful for. Usually, in the morning I would write down 4 or 5 things I was thankful for. Eventually I began doing this in the evening; doing so helped me to reflect on the day and unpack everything that had happened. Gratefulness journaling also helped me to grow in my faith. Thinking about all that God had provided for me allowed me to grow closer to Him. It reminds me of the radical love that God has for each and every one of us.
Practicing gratitude is also known to have numerous benefits, ranging from greater empathy to improved sleep. Gratitude is also repeatedly mentioned in the Bible, one notable example being in Psalms 136:1: “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love endures forever.” All our gifts come from God above and it is good for us to remember to give our thanks to him. It is God who gives us every new sunrise and every breath in our lungs. In the (paraphrased) words of one of my favorite authors, “What can I say at 18, I thank God for my good life, and for all the love that has been given to me.” We all have so much to be thankful for and during this Thanksgiving, I would recommend to all of you to practice gratitude often, be that through a gratefulness journal or in your prayers, for all that God has given to us.
Matthew Vander Wall
Blog, High School