So, I totally bypassed November on the blog. Challenged for time – yes. Challenged for a topic – also yes. Not so much from the lack thereof; rather from the fact that my thoughts have been as busy as my schedule. The Thanksgiving holiday…reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts…a month of concentrated prayer for the persecuted church…lots of ideas that have simultaneously wrecked and refreshed me.
It’s the stories of Pastor Saeed and others who have served as the “faces” of this month of prayer that framed some recent reflections on gratitude, in the midst of challenging me in tons of other ways. Yes, they are stories that underscore HOW MUCH I have to be thankful for. They are also stories that challenge me to look deeper at the faith in which is rooted such contentment and joy. To ponder how I and a brother or sister halfway around the world can view our totally different circumstances and still arrive at the same conclusion of “blessed.”
A couple of weeks ago during a service, our church read Psalm 136. It’s one of those that are tailor-made for responsive reading – every other line is “for His steadfast love/mercy (depending on the version) endures forever.” What stood out to me that day is how the psalmist very deliberately recounts certain events in Israel’s history, isolating every single one and attributing each to the refrain of God’s steadfast love. Things that I would see as a part of a bigger story, not a whole – every happening, every circumstance is clearly delineated as a standalone work of grace.
It suddenly became clear to me how my joy, my gratitude, even my faith in God’s very goodness is often outcome-based. Like a movie or a work of fiction, I skim hurriedly in anticipation of the standard happy ending, the moment of finality, the proof that the chapter ends well. Belatedly do I look back to see God’s hand in the twists and turns; late do I rest, trust. In living so, I miss out on the full measure of grace that lies in each moment, the understanding that my “now” – be it joy, pain, or something beyond my comprehension – has a singular beauty that sets it apart from any past, present, and future “now” that I or anyone else may experience. Now is grace; each and every golden “now”, pouring forth freely from an everlasting mercy and love, whispers, “this moment is My best…I do all things well.”