“Gratitude” – Art and Reflections
This is an “Address to the Nation” poem written for my AA10 class in the midst of a very intense social, political, and cultural moment in the US. Titled, “Gratitude”, the poem reflects on some of the lessons I learned and exhorts readers to hang on to gratitude.
This poem was written during Week 3 of Winter Quarter, 2021 and was inspired by personal experiences and the world I witnessed in 2020. I recalled how social media had become a dark place-reflecting mostly enraged, accusatory, ungrateful, and depressed sentiments. Back in 2020, I had shared some information contrary to the popular view of my peers with the intention of presenting a more nuanced perspective. To me, much of the division was a result of over-generalizing, false assumptions, and a lack of perspective-getting.
My personal assessment of the socio-cultural moment was informed by my faith and psychology research by one of my professors on the topic of perceptions of political affiliation. My faith reminded me to be slow to anger and to pray for those who have wrongly accused, criticized, or mocked me behind my back. I was encouraged to not get my cues or morals from the world and instead look to God’s word for guidance. My studies in psychology provided scientific evidence of the accuracy of the Christian worldview by illuminating how our perceptions are often not aligned with reality. People tend to see out-groups as ‘extreme’ and quickly judge others based on stereotypes or caricatures proliferated by media.
With this view, I had hoped to inspire more productive conversations toward those we label as the ‘out-group’ and show that there were reasonable justifications for why people hold to different viewpoints. Unfortunately, challenging views with some of my friends did not result in productive conversations…
In our digital age, lack of face-to-face conversations makes it easier to cut out those we disagree with (further trapping us in an echo chamber). Looking back on 2020, I recall how conversations became less about listening, exchanging perspectives, and learning, and more about antagonizing and shouting down perceived ideological enemies. Blinded by our own biases and snap judgements, we failed to offer others the benefit of the doubt. Quickness to judge and condemn – usually in the name of some virtue – was foolishness at best and poison at worst. I just remember being so disappointed to witness the lack of emotional maturity as intelligent people made self-righteous statements and irrational accusations toward others.
This kind of culture is toxic and unproductive. And unfortunately, it still exists today. I’ve personally experienced ghosting and outright rejections from people I considered friends. This fracturing of relationships is unfortunate…but unsurprising.
God taught me much during that chapter of my life. If not for my faith in Him, I would not be able to say that I am thankful for that experience. He revealed my people-pleasing tendencies and fear of rejection from others. For once in my life, I knew for a fact that I wasn’t liked by everyone. Acceptance from others was an idol. This realization challenged me to reevaluate the source of my identity and helped me to step out of the digital war zone.
In retrospect, I could clearly see that several roots of false identities had been slowly creeping their way into my heart. Among these identities included superficial accolades such as my college, career path, club associations, political affiliations, friend groups, social media connections…and the list goes on. None of these affiliations are inherently evil or wrong; They were just terribly misplaced! I had allowed these secondary aspects of my life define my core identity, which was never meant to be dependent on affirmation from these sources.
As the Great Physician that He is, God began to perform surgery on my infected heart. He cut out the roots of insecurity and false identity and replaced them with his truth. I fully re-committed myself to living for God and rediscovering my identity in Him. Spending my alone time in prayer and in reading God’s word was healing to my mind and spirit. Once I fully surrendered and welcomed God into my mess, He became my everything and took His rightful place on the throne of my heart.
He taught me how to forgive by reminding me of how much I have been forgiven. He showed me how to have compassion by revealing His compassion for me. He demonstrated how to love others unconditionally by dying on a cross to defeat my sin and shame – an act of love I could never perform myself. He compelled me to pray earnestly for my friends’ salvation by pouring out his Spirit into my life and giving me the desire to share about the freedom I had received.
Even now, I know God is pursuing them and am hopeful that they will have ears to hear and eyes to see the truth about who Jesus is. I pray that they will hear the good news of their redemption, make an informed decision about Jesus – accepting Him into their lives as their Lord and Savior – and receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to live a life of eternal purpose! (How I long for the day when we will rejoice in heaven together!)
So it is with gratitude that I reflect on 2020. I am thankful for this arts GE for providing the opportunity to voice my perspective and reflect on lessons learned. It is with gratitude that I recall past seasons and friendships, knowing that God is working through them for good. It is with gratitude that I celebrate how God continues to bless me with an incredible church community and life-giving friendships today, while also disciplining me and sanctifying me through the not-so-pretty moments.
In 2020 and in every year of my life, He has been the light in the darkness, the hope for the hopeless. He rescues me from self-destructive tendencies and disciplines me for my own good. He uses what the enemy means for evil to draw me back to Him and renew me with God-given purpose. He teaches me to look not at the storm, but to Jesus as He pulls me out of the raging waters of insecurity and despair, and sets my feet on a firm foundation. He is a good, good Father.
…One of my friends likes to say that some of the best things we experience in life are just a “slice of heaven”. She is SO right. We just need to make a practice of giving thanks and recognizing all the blessings and grace God lavishes upon us. I’ve learned to rejoice even when facing painful moments because they often reveal my sin, give me an opportunity to repent, and reignite a sense of gratitude for what Jesus did on the cross. (See James 1 & Philippians 4!)
Let us hold fast to the promise of a future glory in heaven, which encourages us to press forward and endure life’s hardships with hope. Soon Jesus will return to establish justice and reign in perfect peace. No longer will there be division and broken relationships, but we will all be unified in love. The promise of His return is THE hope of a lifetime! So with my eyes fixed on Jesus, I’ll cherish the ups and downs of this journey with gratitude 🙂
Other AA10 Projects
Week 1: An Original Manifesto advocating for the role you want creativity to play in your life.
Week 2: Just do it! Art and Spontaneity
Week 3: Art and the Inauguration – Address to the Nation Poem
Week 4: Global Hip-Hop
Rap – “Coffee Ice Cream”
Hello 1E It’s nice to see, all of you on my computer screen I’m no rapper, and I guess I show it the best I can do is pretend to be a poet today I’ll share, just a few things about my love, for coffee ice cream I started with vanilla at the age of two then it was chocolate, nothing new but then my life changed, my junior year, when I saw some ice cream I'd never tried here I only liked tea and chocolate things, I had never grown attached to the thought of coffee After I tried it for the very first time, I liked it so much, I wrote this rhyme. It’s something about the sugar, AND the caffeine that made me convert at the age of nineteen. I hope you enjoyed this dance today, based off the hip-hop we learned from KJ!
Week 5: Building Los Angeles
Week 6: Song and Silence
Week 7: Artist + Activist = Artivist
Week 8: Reimagining Museums- Access, Equity, Representation
Referencing the photos of Reynaldo Rivera, make your own black-and-white portrait of a person
(it could be yourself or someone else), or an object in your home or community that explores the relationship of place to person, or place to object. Pay attention to the background and setting.
Week 9: Poetry
Something to Desire If there's something to desire, It’s living for something higher. Having courage until the end, When you’ll see your one true friend. It’s to live not for yourself, leaving all but one book on the shelf... It's to live for His Will And love others still. To count it all loss, To know just what it costs, As you carry your cross, Into the waves, you won't be tossed. To let go of control And let God fill His role To be grateful each day, Giving thanks while you pray. In humility and hope, You will thrive - not just cope! All the trials of this life: all the troubles, all the strife. The world is surely rife With evils of every kind. But hope came in the form Of God’s son who was born To pay our sin's cost and save all the lost He bridged the divide In Him, we can confide From Him we cannot hide, His love is deep and wide. Our God came for all Who would respond to His call, Accepting His grace And seeking His face Through faith and belief we find rest and relief In Christ we have peace His love does not cease! He is with us in the trial We don't have to live in denial Our rescue from the deep He's our shepherd; We're His sheep If there’s something to desire, It’s life in He who is higher To give up our own ways In meekness and with praise To stand firm for the truth Discerning feelings from the proof Rejecting worldly ways, For life is short—only days! There's no time to fall away nor to lead others astray Let us make a choice today. Trust in Jesus. He's the only way.
Week 10: Creativity is…
Current memory verse: