Choose to be Grateful

Thanksgiving is here and I am struck with a need for thankfulness. I don’t wish for it I need and want to be thankful. The past 12 months have been nothing short of a blessing. It’s been a gift. Of course like anyone there have been trials and dealings with life in general. The things none of us want to mess with but we all have to in order to make it.

photo credit: Sharon Sinclair via creative commons

photo credit: Sharon Sinclair via creative commons

I woke up one morning last week to a smoke detector beeping not because there was a fire, but because the battery was low. My first thought wasn’t to be thankful to have this in my house to protect me it was to be upset that the battery decided to alert me it needed to be replaced at 4:00 AM. This is a normal reaction but it speaks to something I think we can all relate to and get better at. Even in the midst of trouble life is beautiful. There are long days and sleepless nights but between all of it there is laughing so hard you struggle to breathe and triumphs at work which make the stress worth it. Why then do we struggle to be thankful?

Most morning’s when I awake and jump in the shower I attempt to pray. I usually thank God for the day but don’t really mean it. I’m not being disingenuous but I’m basically asleep so my thoughts even inaudible are incoherent. What does it mean to thank God for waking me up? I think it means to be thankful for another day but I’m not sure if that is the way I mean it. I could be mad because I’m tired even though I am the one who chose to go to bed later than I should have. I could be irritable because I don’t feel great even though I’m the one who ate junk food before going to bed. I could feel an emptiness because I haven’t done a good job of being a friend.

There are a lot of problems I bring on myself, yet somehow when I pray the God I am seeking listens and cares. He doesn’t listen because I am good because I’m certainly not. He doesn’t listen for any reason other than unconditional love. Sometimes life can bring you to your knees. You can fight for so many things but yet feel an emptiness when the end of the day comes because you are falling short. It brings me great frustration I don’t do as much as I feel I’m capable of doing. If I just had an extra hour or two in the morning or at night to do more I could be happier. I could be more thankful. This is the root of my problem.

I feel like I deserve a lot of things that at the end of the day I really don’t deserve. I can point to others and say they are worse than me but it doesn’t matter if I’m right or wrong. They deserve the same things I do. So this year I’m thinking deeper about what thankfulness means and what it looks like in my life. I’m dwelling on Jesus and everything he has done for me. I’m upset with the way the world works and with so much of society but when I look in the mirror I see all of those things staring at me. The faults I see in others are represented in mistakes I make on a daily basis. Instead of being upset and angry at other people I’m going to love them without having to understand why they are hurting. I have a long way to go to get better but don’t we all? If I’m honest I’m thankful for that.

How to Be Thankful for Difficulties

When was the last time you were truly thankful for something ordinary which someone else would give anything to have? I’m talking about food, a roof over your head, clothes, and other basic necessities.

Photo Credit: Dan Foy via Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Dan Foy via Creative Commons

I have felt convicted recently.

I’m thankful for my vision. Being thankful for my vision is more detailed than most. I suffer from nystagmus and have had it for basically my whole life.

As far as living goes it doesn’t impact me at all. There are some who have the condition so severely they cannot drive or do other basic tasks and I’m thankful I don’t have that problem.

I absolutely have not always been this thankful for the vision I do have. When I was younger, in elementary school and middle school, people would often ask me about it but it never bothered me. However, sometime during high school and through college and even beyond I got really self-conscious.

I hated taking pictures because often it was hard for me to focus on the camera lens. I hated looking people in the eye because I didn’t want them to think something was wrong with me.

The longer this went on the more it negatively affected me. I kept it inside and didn’t tell anyone about it which obviously made it worse. I began to hate it. I began to make it a much bigger deal than it actually was.

I remember talking to my wife when we were still dating about it and having a transcendent moment. I remember the exact spot we were at on the interstate coming back to Nashville from visiting family in Chattanooga.

I was telling her about this and as I was talking I could feel the pressure fall off my shoulder like taking off a heavy backpack. As I began talking I realized the issue was not my vision but my self-inflicted burden.

Although I remember the moment clearly, I don’t remember what she said. I simply remember her grabbing my hand. She said more with that motion than she ever could have verbally.

It wasn’t that she helped me realize I was making more of the situation than it actually was but rather she was letting me know it’s OK. We all have issues we struggle with and often times what is a bigger issue than the issue itself is the loneliness which accompanies it.

We don’t need to be perfect. We may long for perfection but it’s unrealistic and the longing for it will only leave us unsatisfied. What we long for is to be told, “it is OK.” Sometimes it doesn’t even need to be expressed with words but simply felt with a touch. I had been climbing a mountain with a cumbersome weight and then realized I didn’t have to carry it.

Whatever you are feeling today I would encourage you to talk with someone about it. It is the last thing you want to do but it is the most important thing you can do. Let someone help you. You don’t have to worry about how they will respond but you will be greatly impacted by getting it out.

I thought nystagmus was my problem. It wasn’t. My problem was I was longing to be told it was OK.

And for that I am thankful.