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The secret of spiritual health

In her Book of Useless Information, Barbara Cortland writes that when the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre in Paris in 1911 and was missing for two years, many more people went to stare at the blank space in the museum than had gone to look at the masterpiece in the 12 previous years.

Far from being “useless,” this intriguing bit of information tells us something important about ourselves. It points to our all-too-human tendency to fail to take note of precious things while we have them. But let them be taken from us and we become painfully aware of the “blank space” in our lives.

The walls of our lives are crowded with Mona Lisas, but we are unmindful of them. The more often and the more regularly we receive any blessing, the less likely we are to be aware of it. What is constantly granted is easily taken for granted.

“I have often thought,” Helen Keller wrote, “that it would be a blessing if each human being were stricken blind and deaf for a few days at some time during his adult life. Darkness would make him more appreciative of sight; silence would teach him the joys of sound.”

Too often, it takes a serious threat to our blessings to make us aware of them.

The words that Frances Gunther wrote in her afterward to Death Be Not Proud, after the death of her teenage son are filled with touching wisdom:

“All the wonderful things in life are so simple that one is not aware of their wonder until they are beyond touch. Never have I felt the wonder and beauty and joy of life so keenly as now in my grief that Johnny is not here to enjoy them.

“Today when I see parents impatient or tired or bored with their children, I wish I could say to them, ‘But they are alive! You can touch them. What a miracle!’ ”

Too many of us look upon prayer exclusively as an effort to obtain blessings we do not have and would like to possess. We forget that one of the primary functions of prayer is to make us gratefully aware of the blessings we already possess and too frequently fail to notice.

Let us treasure our Mona Lisas while we may. How happy a person is depends on the depth of his or her gratitude to God.

The worst ingratitude is gratitude unexpressed.

— Michael Horban, pastor
Cedarview Community Church
Newmarket, Ontario, Canada

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