It has taken some intense patience for me to resist posting this day early. I’ve wanted badly to skip ahead, because I’m a bit of a masochist.
Psalm 50:14-15, 23
14 Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
fulfill your vows to the Most High,
15 and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”
23 He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me,
and he prepares the way
so that I may show him the salvation of God.”
At this stage in her book, Ms. Demoss invites her readers to make a list of hard things they are/have experienced and look upon them as reasons to give thanks. I know, sick, right?
Have you ever heard that song, “we bring a sacrifice of praise/into the house of the Lord?” It’s super upbeat and cheerful, and everyone gets really into it, and I always want to square dance in the aisle when we sing it.
It’s a fun little number, but it seems kind of absurd. While I understand that there is joy to be found in a Christian’s suffering, I also know it has the capacity to hurt like. . .um. . .really, really bad pain. Like lemon juice in spiritual paper cuts, or something. A sacrifice of praise is hard-fought. It occurs in that moment when you’re able to fight back everything in you that screams, “BUT IT’S NOT FAIR!” and instead choose to say, “Not my will, but Yours.” Those are usually gritted teeth moments for me, moments when I’m not necessarily happy about what I’m doing, but I know that my feelings will eventually follow my actions.
I wrote all of the above several days ago, while preparing this post. In that moment, I was excited to look at the hard parts of my life and choose gratitude. But God wasn’t about to let me get away that easily, and while I cheerfully planned clever hardships about which to be grateful (ie: “I will never meet Tim Tebow, which means I will never make a fool out of myself in front of Tim Tebow”. . .see how easy?), the aggregated effect of the past few months of my life has started to weigh heavily on my heart. So writing this post was difficult. I figured I needed to be done faking the gratitude thing. This one, by its very nature, had to be genuine.
Difficulties for which I am and will be grateful:
1) This summer. It’s been surprisingly hard. The job for which I’d been hired ended up not working out, which means that this summer has been, among other things, a fascinating case study in ‘hermiting.’ (I started the summer with maybe 3 social skills, and I think I’m down to 0.5 now). But this experience has not only given me a great amount of rest from the valley of the shadow of death that was my last semester, it has caused me to appreciate the busy seasons of life. Plus, I know that by November, I’ll be looking back on this summer and pining for it, because discontent is like hope in that it springs eternal in the human breast. So maybe I should just be grateful for it now, eh?
2) Loans and budgeting. Loans grate on me. I really hate owing anything to anybody. But if I didn’t have loans, it would take me forever to get through school, and I would probably drop out. And budgeting. . .well, let’s just say that I thought I was not materialistic before I had a budget. And while I’m not materialistic in the sense of wanting materials, I’m wildly extravagant when it comes to learning and experiences. I’ll shell out hundreds for a cool martial arts class, to go bungee jumping, to set up an organic garden or buy a chicken. Of course, I haven’t done any of these things yet because I haven’t had hundreds to shell out, courtesy of le budget. But it’s a good thing that I have a budget. First, it keeps me from getting further into debt. Secondly, it helps push me to be creative with what I do have. And thirdly, it relieves all sense of guilt if I do manage to save up a little and spend it on something cool. Therefore, I am grateful for my tiny bank account–it exists.
3) This time period. I’m being pushed. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s like my dear friend Chelsea said one time, “If you’re gonna pray for humility, you may as well just pray to have a terrible day.” True dat, my love. I haven’t yet had the courage to pray for humility, but I prayed for a lot of other stuff that I assume is taking place right now. And, let’s be frank–on one of my dramatic days, I would describe it as “the worst thing EVER.” But a) it’s an answer to prayer, though I really need to be more careful next time, and b) it’s definitely for my own good. When I’m humble enough to not be ticked off about it, this time is showing me a lot about myself. Stuff that needs to be changed. And that’s a good thing, even if it feels a bit like having an emotional root canal, without anesthesia or a cute dentist.
4) Columbia. I’ve been a bit of a poop-face about Columbia since moving here. I compared it to Ankara and Chicago and found it lacking in. . .I don’t know exactly. But I am realizing that most of the lack is within me. If I’m not having fun or growing or doing whatever it is I think I’d be doing elsewhere, it’s because I’m sitting home picking my nose on Friday nights, not because the city isn’t offering me anything. Also, Columbia has some real gems–there are tons of farms around here that offer awesome produce and ethically raised meat (and the growing season is relatively long). It’s close to a lot of awesome tourist places, like Charleston, Asheville, and Savannah, not to mention flanked by the beach and mountains. It’s warm–my snot didn’t freeze once this whole winter! And Columbia has tons of mom and pop stores just waiting to be explored, which just makes my heart sing. I love moms. And pops.
5) Loneliness. After having made this transition, I’m realizing how much my friends over the years have meant to me, and how much I (like everyone else in the world) thrive when I have a stable support network of deep friendships. It usually takes me a couple years to build said support system, and while I expected it coming to Columbia, I am still staggered by the depth of the loneliness that sometimes sweeps over me. But I will choose to be grateful for it, because I am learning through it. I’m learning to be productive with pain, rather than stagnating in it (and by “learning,” I mean “failing, but still hopeful”). I’m developing a deeper gratitude for the friends I’ve developed over the years, friends I honestly don’t deserve and have often undervalued. And once again, I think there’ll be some pretty great spiritual pay off to this whole thing, if I can just make it through.
Wow. This post is long, and relatively unedited; but it’s bedtime, and sleep is one of my favorite blessings, so I apologize for the rough vernacular and long ramblings, but. . .oh well.
Ok, y’all, you’re up. You can go with the theme or just be grateful for good things; I’m not the Gratitude Police. And PS: You guys are awesome. Truly.