When I was little, I would occasionally have this sort of conversation with my older brother:
“I’m faster than you are!”“Are not.”“Am too.”“Not not not!”“Too too too too too!”“Not to infinity!”“Yes to infinity plus one!!”“Not to infinity times infinity!!!!!”*
And whoever gets infinity times infinity always wins, because of course you just can’t imagine anything bigger than that, right?***
President Uchtdorf recently spoke about the need to be grateful, not just in our happy, blessed times, but also in our difficulties:
“It is easy to be grateful for things when life seems to be going our way. But what then of those times when what we wish for seems to be far out of reach?“Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be.” (Ensign, May 2014)
I have pondered this topic many times (mostly recently for a talk in church that I am shamelessly coopting for this blog post) and continue to work through how it is possible to be grateful in any and all circumstances. What can give us the perspective to do this? How can we be grateful when life seems ugly, painful, dark?
My mind turns to the idea of a scale, with our blessings on one side and our trials and tragedies on the other. It is easy, I think, to toss a decent smattering of items onto either side of the scale. I, for example, find myself almost daily grateful for the invention of the microwave. And for indoor plumbing. And for my beautiful family. The list is easy to build. On the other side, I have a tendency toward depression, a fairly pathological fear of driving, divorced parents, yada yada.
So how do these blessings and trials balance out?
There is, of course, no contest—because I haven’t yet added the most important blessings of all, and these blessings are eternal. They are infinite. Eve, one of my personal heroes, points to them when she speaks of the joy that she has in her fall from Eden and her knowledge of God’s plan (Moses 5:10–11). These are the blessings of the Atonement and the Resurrection. They are God’s gifts to us no matter what else is difficult in our mortality. Infinite and eternal, without cost and without price. Added to those infinite gifts is another—eternal families—which requires only our devotion to God.
On the scale of life, we are given infinite blessings, blessings so overwhelming our minds can’t even process them. So even on the worst days, or in the worst of lives, we still find that infinity minus the ten or twenty or thirty trials—well, it’s still infinity. Which is, I think, part of what gives us the grace to cultivate that disposition toward gratitude that President Uchtdorf speaks of.
Because we are blessed, to infinity times infinity. And that always wins.
* Yes, exclamation point haters, I really did need that many exclamation points.**
** (No I didn’t.)
*** Logicians and mathematicians, don’t get all up in arms at me. Just pretend.