Gratitude

Now that Christmas break is officially over, I have tried to take some time and reflect on what God was teaching me during these past six weeks. There is one recurring word that continues to rattle in my brain – gratitude. My conscience felt very sensitive over break to the many things that I take for granted in my daily apathetic consumption of life. The most basic fact about my existence is simply that I am here and have all the things that I do because God has given them to me by His grace. Each breath that I breathe, every bite of food that I taste, every drink that I swallow – they are all miracles from God that are deserving of my undying gratitude. He took some time over break to quiet my heart when it began to forsake gratitude for impatience by reminding me that I am missing the purpose of whatever I decided to complain about.

For example, I am quick to criticize a waiter/waitress for his/her performance on the job (e.g. taking too long to bring my food, getting the order wrong, etc.) instead of simply being grateful that I can sit on my butt in complete comfort while being served by someone taking orders from me. I complain about my air conditioner not functioning properly instead of being grateful that I have a roof over my head to protect me. I complain about the quality of my clothing instead of being grateful for the fact that I have closet that has far too many items in it already. God continued to impress upon me these simple oversights that have woven themselves deep within my heart. It seems that I take God’s gift to me, consider it my own, and then examine every fine point of it until I find something that does not meet my standards so that I can complain about it instead of realizing the miracle of that moment.

I am well aware that I am completely unable to ever be perfectly grateful for everything that God has given me, but fortunately so is He. However, it is still a lesson that He has continued to illustrate to me and one of the best ways He did this was through my recent trip to Pasadena, California. For those of you who do not know, I had the opportunity to travel to the Rose Bowl to see my beloved Longhorns play for the NCAA national football championship. As I am sure all of you know, we did not walk away with a victory. But a loss in a bowl game is not what I will spend my time remembering when I think back on the trip. I will instead remember God’s rich blessings to me and four others as well as one person who exemplified a profound gratitude that actually made me thankful that the Longhorns did not win.

Before the trip began, I ran into one big problem that comes with being a college student – I had no money. And making a trip to California gets pretty expensive when you factor in gas, hotels, food, tickets, and souvenirs. Add in four other people going with me and there is a lot to think about in coming to terms with whether or not a trip like that is even reasonable. By the time January 5th came around (the day we planned to leave), we had a free truck to use, free hotels for both the trip up and the trip back, a free house and car to use in Pasadena, free gas throughout the entire trip, free food when we arrived in Pasadena, a free parking pass 200 yards from the stadium, AND two extra free tickets to the football game. What in the world we did to deserve that escapes me entirely, but I know that we would not have been at that game had we not been given so much. One of the things that we both talked and prayed about as a group before the trip was that our perspectives would be set on recognizing how incredibly blessed we were to be going on that trip in light of such tremendous generosity from others. Everything that we saw, tasted, smelled, and experienced was truly a gift from God.

So those are the blessings that I mentioned earlier in my post, but I am sure you are still wondering what could have happened that actually made me feel grateful that the Longhorns lost, right? Well, from a sports fan’s perspective I can tell you that I am disappointed to have come back to Austin without that crystal football, but Colt McCoy was the reason that I felt like everything happened the way it was supposed to during that trip to Pasadena. His injury on the first drive of the game was a shock to everyone in the country – especially when doctors determined that he would not be returning to the game. For the most part, it went downhill from there for our team. We had a chance for a comeback towards the end, but we had already dug too deep of a hole. But the moment that I will forever see most clearly when I think back to that night was Colt’s post-game interview on the field with Lisa Salters. She asked him the typical prodding question: “Colt, what was it like for you to watch this game, your last game in a Longhorn uniform, from the sideline?”

Now think about this for a minute. This is a 23-year old kid who has spent the last four years building up his athletic abilities and his team in order to get to this national championship game and less than three minutes into his opening drive he is forced stand on the sideline and watch his team lose because of a freak injury. How is any typical kid in this situation going to answer to that question? I can tell you quite plainly that I would complain and whine about the fact that I was not on the field and I would make a fuss that Alabama probably did not deserve the game because I was not in there to beat them. Luckily, Colt has more character than I do. This was his answer – after he congratulated Alabama on the win:

“I always give God the glory. I never question why things happen the way they do. God is in control of my life. I know that if nothing else, I’m standing on the Rock.”

If the Longhorns had won, the odds are pretty good that Colt still would have said something similar, but nobody would have noticed because it is easy to praise God in the good times. He attributed everything to God during a moment in which all that he had been working for over the last four years was being given to Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. And I know that he did it because he has a heart of gratitude for the opportunities that God has given him in life. It made me very proud to have had him as a role model for UT over the past four years. What a blessing.

That is the moment I will remember when I think back to that trip because gratitude for God’s great blessings was displayed on a stage where millions were given the opportunity to witness a moment of faith. I think God is very poetic in the way that He moves in this world. Hearing Colt say those words was a beautiful moment for me, but he would never have gotten the chance if the Longhorns won the game.I traveled to Pasadena, California with four great people to see a game that I have hoped the Longhorns would get to and win for the last four years only to return home after seeing them lose…

…And I am so grateful.

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