May I share a little insight I just received from a quite unexpected source?
I try to be all about gratitude. I believe it's the missing element in a lot of Christians' lives, and I think it's a response to life that can never be overdone or overemphasized. I'd even go out on a limb and say that a lack of gratitude is at the heart of nearly all spiritual problems I've ever seen. Note I didn't say it's the heart of every problem...there are plenty of problems that won't be solved by gratitude. I can be tremendously grateful for my home, but if the bank forecloses on the mortgage, no amount of thankfulness is going to stop them or solve my problem of homelessness.
But when my misfortune becomes a spiritual problem, the heart of the issue is probably ingratitude for what I do have, a sense that what God has given isn't enough.
So I work at gratitude. Sometimes it flows easily, like a gushing spring. Sometimes I have to pump it out of myself like a well being drilled from a mile below parched ground. In the middle of last year's trauma and pain and debilitating nausea, I constantly looked for reasons for gratitude: a family who loved me and walked through this fire by my side; a bedroom on the ground floor; a (mostly) working laptop; antibiotics that successfully fought off my infections; a best friend who took vacation time to come and care for me in those first awful days; a doctor who prayed with and for me and made house calls.
Chronic pain does strange things to your heart and mind. And finding nuggets for which I can be thankful in the midst of it is often a challenge. But today, in moments between grading algebra and helping with a resume, I looked up at the TV and saw a reason that has, so far, escaped me.
You've probably seen it. A pretty woman is sitting at the piano, playing a hauntingly lovely melody, when the keys and finally the entire piano begin to crumble under her fingers. The voice-over describes how a disease, in this case rheumatoid arthritis, can steal the life you love. I don't remember the exact wording, but the focus is on how all the meaningful things in one's life can crumble with the onset of RA.
And like a lightning bolt, I felt it. Another huge reason to be grateful: nothing I've been through -- no matter how painful, how inconvenient, how humiliating, how limiting, how expensive, how disappointing -- none of it has "stolen" anything of ultimate importance to me. Oh, there are things I'd like to do that I can't do anymore. There are experiences I won't be able to have. I may never have the stamina or the strength I once had. But God, in His severe mercy, never allowed my life to take the turns that might have been destroyed by arthritis, a dozen surgeries, raging infections, and limited mobility.
I was never a dancer. (Well, there was that ballet class in second grade, but let's don't go there.) I never had more than a passing fancy with running. I didn't develop a love for rock climbing or cycling or aerobics. I love to travel, but I had no desire to be a flight attendant or a tour guide. Yet when I survey all the things I am passionate about, they're all still part of my life. And for that, I must bow in thanksgiving.
There may be a time when God allows some other illness or accident to take away the things that I love: family, friendships, work, books, music, mentoring, teaching my kids, travel, writing. Without my eyesight, my hearing, or my fingers, some of these things would become impossible or severely limited. And perhaps then I'll have to pump harder for that sacrifice of praise and thankfulness. But today, a simple drug commercial let me take that next step in gratitude. I still have all the things I truly love.
Never underestimate God's ability or willingness to speak, or sing, today's life lessons in a very ordinary key...
Labels: Devotional, Health