As Thanksgiving approaches, I think about how our family traditionally gives thanks. I can’t help but reflect only to realize and admit that it is easy to give thanks for the good things in our lives. But what about those circumstances that bring us to our knees? The ones we plead and beg God to heal and fix for us. These are the things that eventually infuse us with strength and a deeper faith, making us who we are.
It’s taken me 51 years to realize that life is a series of circumstances and break downs, which are really just opportunities to get closer to God. We live in a complex and cynical world filled with harsh judgment of others, extreme competition, tragedy and violence. It’s easy to get down and depressed with so many unfortunate circumstances. You desperately hope for smooth sailing, the good life, perfection, a peaceful world. You want your children and your grandchildren to grow up happy, healthy and safe. Yet, you find yourself wrought with worry and anxiety over the future for our families.
I remember as a little girl, visiting neighbors’ homes during the holidays, in awe of their lavish decorations, their families all gathered together in their holiday frocks. I longed for that perfect world where everything looked just right. As I grew up I began to see that this is just is not reality; every family has their struggles and no one has the perfect life. Yet I still carried that hope that just maybe if I did everything right, that somehow that could happen for me and my family. Well, I have finally surrendered my dream of the “picket fence" life. I longed for as a child. I am learning that each time the world’s negative energy hooks me, is an opportunity to lean on God; an opportunity to forgive someone, an opportunity to be an example of God’s love to others.
In the past few years, I have immersed myself in scripture as a way of coping with life’s toughness. The message that I find most difficult to embrace is “Give thanks in all circumstances,” 1 Thessalonians, 5:18. I don’t know about you, but this is hard for me! How do you say, thank you for the things that bring you pain and sadness? The illness, the death, the abuse, the addiction, the bad economy, the loss of jobs, the strained relationships? It’s a struggle and sometimes I just cannot physically bring myself to do it.
What I am learning is that perspective changes everything. If I can shift my thinking in such a way that I realize that a hardship is a journey to a deeper inner strength and faith, then it is easier to say, “Thank you God, for the hard times.” I am learning that you start by trusting God that all things will work out the way they are supposed to, according to his plan. This is SO hard to do! I want to control it, fix it and put a ribbon on it and place it on the shelf! Sometimes that is just not possible and I wear myself out trying. Then I stop and realize I just have to practice, one day at a time. I remind myself that if Jesus could forgive those who crucified him I can certainly forgive those who have upset my “perfect little day.”
I have to believe that if we take a step back from the frenzy in which we live, where technology has us always connected to something, we can see more clearly that what really matters in this life are the people God has given us to love. The “stuff” of this world will not be with us when we die, but the memories we leave here, will live on in the hearts of those we loved. We all have that circumstance in which we need to forgive someone, or surrender to a higher power. I recently read somewhere that, “Today’s forgiveness is tomorrow’s healing.” What if for one day, we all forgave that one thing? How gentle the world would be.
This Thanksgiving, I challenge you that after you give thanks for all the blessings in your life, find that one thing that causes you pain and thank God for that circumstance; that opportunity to grow in your faith, to be the better person, to love, to forgive as Christ has done for us. Life is much more than a picket fence. Happy Thanksgiving everyone. May your holidays be filled with peace, love and the gift of family.