Turning Experience into Thanksgiving

I once read an interview of the poet Richard Wilbur in which he admitted that he was having a hard time with the writing of new poems: “I might have something like half a new book of poems done. At the moment, I’m struggling to recover the habit of writing poems, the habit of turning experience, as it comes, into verse. It’s a habit that you can lose, and I think to some extent I’ve lost it. . . .”

The interviewer then asked, “Is there any conscious way of recovering that habit?” Wilbur replied, “I don’t think so. I don’t think one can force oneself into a frame of mind, but one can force oneself not to do certain distracting things. I’ve lately been obliging myself, with some discomfort, to sit still and see if something won’t come. And a few poems have been coming along.”

Worship is the process—the discipline—of turning experience, as it comes, into praise and thanksgiving. There are certainly times when we cannot force ourselves into the right frame of mind. We can, though, discipline ourselves away from the distractions. We can, “with some discomfort, sit still and see if something won’t come.” When we are still, when we push the distractions aside, when we allow our hearts and minds to soak up the grace of silence and the mercy of quietness, then our memories will improve, and we will see that God has not abandoned us. We will discover anew that our lives are touched and held by the Eternal; we will feel ourselves embraced by the love of God. Shouts of praise and prayers of thanksgiving will come along.