Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Thankful IN, not FOR

Yesterday I said that I felt 2011 was my year in a life burn unit. As I reflected, I realized that it was very much like having my entire life debrided of those things that weren't authentic, weren't on focus for my purpose in life.  I had spent many years, too many, putting aside and putting off those things that a small still voice had encouraged me to do.  Instead I did things that I thought were expected of me...and, to be honest, a lot of them were expected of me and a lot of them were actually good things to do.  But I had buried that little voice so deeply I could no longer even recognize it when it was shouting. So that's why I think I had to have my life debrided.  All the things I thought I could count on, that I had taken for granted (and not necessarily in a good way) had to be painfully scraped away until I was left, raw and bleeding emotionally and psychically. I learned what it felt like to stand on the brink of what used to be called a nervous breakdown, and it was not a place I would wish on anyone.

But somehow, through a combination of grace and friends and prayer, I have managed to step back from the edge.  It's still close, but not as close it was just a few months ago. I knew things were getting better when I finally sorted my socks.  Now that might not sound like a big thing, but for months I just stuffed the socks in a basket, and searched for pair or something that appeared to be pain-like when I needed socks.  When I actually took the time to find the mates and put them back in the drawer where they belonged, a mundane act if ever there was one, I realized that maybe things were improving. (No, this isn't my drawer, but I think I have that many socks.)

As I said, I'm still en pointe a lot of the time, but with the new year, I'm feeling the touch of "the thing with feathers That perches in the soul," as Emily Dickinson calls it. One of the things that has helped is to make a concerted effort to tell a friend about the abundances, the blessings that have occurred each day. Even when the day was at its worst, I knew that I had to find something to send her in an email, even if the something was as simple as "I made it through another day without feeling like panicking."

It wasn't always easy because, for a long time, most of my life to be honest, I misunderstood 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus).  I thought it meant that we were supposed to be happy about everything that happened.  Woo Hoo, I got a flat tire!  Yippee, I was just fired.  YES!! I've just gotten really sick.  YEAH God, this is so cool!

I couldn't understand how anyone was supposed to feel floods of joy and happiness resulting in an outpouring of thanksgiving when bad things were happening. In the course of writing about saints and adversity, I came to realize that even the saints weren't always tickled to death about bad things.  And I realized that I had been misreading the bible verse all these years.

We don't have to give thanks FOR all things...only IN all things.  Big difference. God doesn't expect us to be all starry-eyed with joy when life batters us with pain and suffering.  God would be sadistic and we'd be masochistic if that were the case.  What we are asked to do is to find the good in the bad, the blessing in the midst of the pain, the happiness in amongst the sorrow. It's sort of like seeing the flowers amid the weeds.  Or maybe seeing that the weeds themselves are flowers.

It isn't easy to do, but I've found it is possible. Take last year, for instance.  It began in January with the axle breaking on my car---while I was driving it.While I certainly didn't give thanks for the break or the repair or the inconvenience of it all, I am finally able to be thankful that I noticed something was wrong just as I was driving by the dealership repair shop.  I turned in and had they look at it right that moment.  Had I driven even a few more yards--or attempted to get on the freeway--I would have been in a serious accident with a high potential of injury or death.  So now, looking back, I can say that I found something to be thankful for in the midst of it all.

It's taken me some time to absorb the lessons, but as I wrote in the introduction to Facing Adversity with Grace:
I firmly and absolutely believe that God does not want us to suffer, but wants us to live abundant lives. While we all will experience some pain on our life journeys, becoming entrenched in suffering is not honoring God and it is not living abundantly. So my hope for you is that as you read how the saints used their suffering, you will discover, not just words of spiritual consolation, but genuine, practical measures that you can use in your daily life in order to eliminate unnecessary pain and to claim the abundant life God has promised each one of us. After all, this life in the “vale of tears” may not always be easy, but it is always good!
So what have you found to be thankful for IN this day?

And for your Nefer/Basti update, I think Basti is channeling Spiderman here. He is one determined cat. He promises me that when he comes down, he'll resume his Dispatches from the Front.  God save us all!!!

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