Thanksgiving. Time to make the list. The “what I’m thankful for” list.
You know the drill. Most lists have the same items on them year after year no matter who is writing the list. “My family. My friends. Food. Shelter…”
Gratitude is a good habit to practice. One time several years ago I sat down and quickly wrote 100 things I was thankful for. All the wonderful good things in my life I could think of. It was good medicine for my attitude and kept me happy for, oh, maybe 10-20 hours.
Really, giving thanks is not all that difficult. It’s a breeze to give thanks about the wonderful. About the good.
There are two words in scripture that are mentioned in the same breath as being thankful. Always. And everything. When you’re talking about “always” and “wonderful good”, it’s still a breeze to be thankful. I’m generally always thankful about the good stuff. Aren’t you?
But then there’s the word “everything.”
Really? Everything? Even…the worst everything?
We all have our own worst everything. That one thing that can easily trip us up and leave us wrecked. Leave us thinking thoughts that don’t come close to anything that resembles gratitude. Shatter our heart to pieces.
Of all the everythings I have experienced in my life, my personal long term “worst everything” involved the disability of my oldest sister. Her limited intellectual ability, her emotional/psychological issues. The challenges it brought to our family dynamics are not easy to grasp unless you’ve been in our shoes. No details here, but there were some exceedingly difficult times. The word “retarded” rings in my ears and stings me even now. Changing the word to something prettier and more palatable doesn’t change the reality.
I can’t lie, having a sibling with such a disability, having a “retarded” sister…. I didn’t handle it well. At all. Anger, shame, guilt, bitterness, embarrassment. Dangerously close to hate. It was an everything that would never change.
I’d like to say that one day when I was very young I suddenly overcame all my struggles dealing with my sister. But again, I can’t lie. It took me many many….decades….to come to the realization that she is a gift from God, created perfectly and exactly as He intended. He gently led my heart to a place where I can see her more from His perspective. He opened my eyes to the good, the wonderful, in her. And there is so much!!
Here is the very best “good” about her: No matter how frustrated I could get with her, no matter how mean I might sometimes speak to her, no matter how seldom I call her or visit her… she loves me. She will always be happy to hear my voice on the phone, she will always be ecstatic to see me in person, she will always be delighted to go anywhere I might take her. She will always understand when I apologize for times when I’m unable to be there for her. She will always end every conversation with “I love you.” She is so much more than her disability.
She was most definitely not my worst everything. My heart, my attitude toward her was my worst everything.
The scripture 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “In everything give thanks”. I can give thanks and gratitude to God in everything because He has been with me in my worst everything. He was patient with me in times when I did not deserve patience. He did not abandon me or give up on me. It’s very humbling to me to realize that He saw the anger, shame, guilt, bitterness in my ugly heart and looked beyond my sin with understanding, grace, and love.
He looked in my heart and said, “Let me live in there, make room for Me. I can fix this.” I couldn’t. He could. I’m on my knees in deep, amazed gratitude. How can it be?
Can I encourage you this Thanksgiving season to look at your worst everything differently? I am certain that if you look closely enough you’ll find that God has been with you. And He won’t leave you. The presence of God in your worst everything is most definitely cause to be thankful. And your thankful praise will bring you new hope. He will change your heart. Let Him in.
In everything, He is with you. And in everything…. give thanks.
|Bunny and Sharon||
Oh that I would have learned to love her sooner. Oh that I could have loved her like she loves me.
And…thank you God for not giving up on me.