When words fail, give thanks
The news in the world is almost too much to take. The struggle in Iraq and Syria, people being shot by police and police being shot by people. Such loud, graphic demonstrations of hate splashed across our televisions, computers and newspapers. It is both oceans away and right in my new home state.
As I scroll through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram I see time and again my friends are left grappling for words. How to mourn with those that mourn, how to call out injustice, how to contribute to the good, how to not just get numb because the load is really too much to bare.
After spending the morning lost in a swirl of thoughts about injustice and brokenness, hurt and helplessness, I find myself coming back to ideas given to me by Ann Voskamp in her book One Thousand Gifts.
"Eucharist--thanksgiving--always precedes the miracle."
"the secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is."
"Gratitude for the seemingly insignificant--a seed--this plants the giant miracle."
So as I mourn for a world that seems broken beyond fixing, both on the other side of the globe and all too close to home; for those that are afraid, and mourning: those that are oppressed and in need of rescue: those that are lonely and misunderstood. As I cry out looking-asking-begging-God to be here, to rescue, to heal the broken, to avenge the wrongs. As I long for people who know Jesus to fall deeper in love with him and to not only give lip service to him and his church as they act the way they think he instructed but to allow the words that Jesus spoke to transform their lives and invest their lives in knowing him. I am brought back to thanksgiving.
And so I slowly start to list the things I'm thankful for. I look for the places that are the hardest and try to find ways that I can show gratitude.
- I'm thankful that when we see brokenness, and things that are wrong we feel it in our gut. We can't really escape it. It haunts us. It cries out to us that there must be a better way and urges us to chase after the right and good.
- I'm thankful for the times that I just don't have words, because words alone are not enough, and my lack of words pushes me to prayer. It pushes me beyond platitudes to deep self searching. It causes me to grapple and wrestle and not only search for words but for ways to act.
- I am thankful that in the struggle, change happens, endurance is grown, and perseverance is gained.
- I'm thankful that God made us in His image. All of us. Collectively. We need the diversity of culture, race, preferences and gifts in order to even get a sliver of the fullness of God. The differences between us should be appreciated instead of feared, ignored, or hidden away.
- I'm thankful for those that risk their lives ever day to serve and protect us, and for their families who know the risk that when their loved one goes to work their very life is at stake.
- I'm thankful for the brave who speak up and call things that are racist, or bigoted, atrocious and just plain wrong what they are.
- I am thankful for forgiveness. I know that I need to be forgiven time and time again.
- I'm thankful that out of the deep darkness God creates new works.
- I'm thankful for a God who's arm isn't too short to rescue, and His ear is not too deaf to hear.
And like every time before I am changed in the process of thanksgiving. It is a bolt of lightening that gives me just enough light to reorientate myself, and to get pointed in the right direction. Although I might be in the darkness, God is here too. And His light chases that darkness away.
While I still mourn and ache, while I long for restoration and for the struggle to end I also have a stronger sense of hope. The free fall seems to stop as I rest on the foundation of my faith. I'm left with a peace that allows me to take the next step, even if it seems mundane. I'm left better able to love.
And I'm pretty sure that what I come away with is so much greater than if I just had words to start with.
Gratitude is contagious. I'd love to hear what you are thankful for, especially in those places that are the hardest and darkest.