Thought for the Week


Expectation does not equal arrogance, and self-deprecation does not equal humility. 
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Gratitude feels like a lie when I’m suffering or struggling.  Remembering reasons to be thankful during trouble and hard times can be tough, because it sort of rubs across the grain of my expectations, my silently but dearly held belief that when circumstances are pleasant, God is loving me, and when they are miserable, he is angry with me.  I’m not sure where it comes from, but I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in carrying it.

I suspect this concealed belief hides inside my selfishness and self-centeredness.  The “me sin”, encouraging me to turn thoughts, events, conversations and even prayers toward what I want, what I feel I deserve, what I’ve decided I’m entitled to, though I’d rarely describe it so explicitly.  After all, would anyone claim that self-centerdness is a virtue?

That’s really the heart of it, right?  We all already know that demanding our own way, insisting on what we want regardless of the consequences, is not good.  That’s certainly not how we want people to interact with us.  So how do I get from here to there; from selfish thinking to thankfulness?

I believe it begins by acknowledging that, while my needs and suffering are sharply real, I am not alone, or even the worst.  In fact, everyone, every human being alive and who has ever lived has suffered.  No matter what has happened in my life, I share it with many, although it can often appear that others are not suffering as much or even at all.  This is the birthplace, I suspect, of the belief that I’m entitled to a better life than what I have – when I look around at others and their experiences (of which I’m usually more ignorant than I realize), I set out to use their apparent lack of pain and worry as justification for resisting, even rejecting the idea of being grateful.  Grateful for what?  My pain?  That I don’t have their life, their freedom, their wealth, their family, etc.?  No.  Grateful for those I do have in my life, no matter how few or how many.  Grateful for any relationship, no matter how distant.  Grateful for forgiveness of my selfishness and the many foolish, even mean-spirited, words and actions I’ve expressed.  Grateful for the ability and freedom to even share these thoughts with whomever is willing to consider them.  Grateful for shelter, heat and food, whatever form they take, be it a cozy home or blankets and just enough food for the moment.

See, that’s the secret of being thankful.  It isn’t borne in having the right things, or having what others have; it’s borne in recognizing there is always another person who doesn’t have what you have, doesn’t know what you know, or is suffering more intensely.  Thankfulness comes from discovering I am not alone, no matter my circumstances, because when all else is lost, when all others have abandoned me intentionally or otherwise, the one who created me and gave up everything he was entitled so that I could live and enjoy his indestructible goodness and riches forever is still there, loving me and ready to listen.

I pray you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

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