“Eucharisteo–thanksgiving– always precedes the miracle.”
There are people who speak God’s truth to me in my language. Not just my native language, but my heart language. Ann Voskamp is one of those people for me. And, once again, not only were the words right–the timing perfect. The title drew me in: “How to live through anything these holidays when you’re finding it hard to even breathe.” She actually posted it yesterday on annvoskamp.com, but I read it today. Good thing, too, because yesterday was already full up with emotion.
So I’m reading along, and I come to it there in bold print. And I stop. The tears waste no time coming. For a minute, I see nothing but the words:
“What you think you can’t handle–might actually be God handing you a gift.”
Ann, come on. What are you doing to me?
I know she’s right.
She’s right, and I believe what she’s saying, but I cannot for the life of me understand it. I’m thinking I should. I should have some lofty wisdom by now. I’ve followed Ann on the journey through counting our blessings in 1,000 Gifts and not being afraid of broken things in The Broken Way. I’ve even led studies on these books with our women’s groups. But I gotta tell ya–preaching and practicing–they’re two different things.
Life’s been bumpy lately. I look at the broken car on the screen and the image of the adult-kid who was so tired he allowed his life and that shiny new car to swerve off-course. He walked away unharmed but also seemingly unphased by the miracle. This kid with the broken heart even his mom doesn’t know how to fix. I look at broken dreams and broken families and shake my fists and stamp my feet and wonder how on earth can these things be gifts?
I’ve talked to people and heard their stories of God redeeming their shattered lives. Taking the years the locusts have destroyed, all the times they allowed themselves to be led astray, and redeeming them for their good and God’s glory. I have heard these things. I know God is in the business of miracles. I believe it. I pray that God will help my unbelief. What can I do in the meantime? Until he restores another tiny morsel of my faith, what actions can I take to propel me through the mire? Sure, I can listen to my life verse, Psalm 46:10:
“Be still and know that I am God.”
That’s all well and good, but I’ve physically sat here and prayed, and my mind is still antsy. What is that stillness going to look like this time ’round? What actions can I take to be still? Then I remember my gratitude journal, and the way it changed my perspective last year. Yes, that’s what I need, a change of vantage point. I’m stuck in the quicksand of doubt and dread. I want to be up out of the spirit-sucking muck and up on eagle’s wings getting a God’s-eye view. I make a list of the parts of this tragedy that I am grateful for. Maybe I can’t be thankful for the whole kit and kaboodle right now, but I can find pieces, tiny blessings embedded in the muck.
I’m thankful that:
- he’s ok
- my mother was praying for him before she even knew what was wrong
- no one else was involved the accident
- we have phones
- my husband loves his family
- my son loves his family
- we are healthy
- love perseveres
I listed even more blessings, and then I looked at what I had written. I was surprised that even though this was a terrible, traumatic thing that happened, if I looked for it, I could find God’s hand at work even in the emergency.
When I looked up the origin of “emergency,” I found that it comes from the Latin emergere meaning to “rise out or up.” It is widely understood that emergencies are occurrences that arise and require immediate attention. We know that. But what if we also knew deep in our souls that we are the ones doing the rising up and out and seeing “emergencies” as God does–as gifts, as opportunities to give thanks? When I remember to practice naming the gifts, a little more of God’s truth sinks in. I need that. I think you do, too.