Friday, January 25, 2013

When thriving looks more like surviving

There are days, I've decided, when thriving will look more like surviving and even maybe that's a stretch. Days, well, days like today when hearts feel stretched to their limit, the shadowy darkness of sin, selfishness, entitlement, spite and hatred threatens to swallow up the light, and the very act of putting one foot in front of the other seems like a monumental act. Yes, on days like today.

In those heart crushing, bone crushing, spirit sapping days gone by, the words of His heart have brought strength and courage.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, 
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 
 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. 
And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 
Not only so, 
but we also glory in our sufferings, 
because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 
 perseverance, character;
 and character, hope. 
 And hope does not put us to shame, 
because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, 
who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

I hold those words dear. 

Today, though, the question that falls off my lips is if perseverance produces character and hope, what, dear friends, produces perseverance? What strengthens the weary soul? Perhaps it's a cyclical argument but what gives hope enough to step forward again and again into the very darkness that saps the will to live?  What gives one the will to persevere, moving forward into that character and hope? Doesn't one need character and hope to do so? What light is there to push away the darkness? 

In the midst of has been the words given to and penned by a writer that have continued to draw me back to His heart. Thankfulness. Gratitude. Eucharisto. And then joy. There can be joy when the darkness pushes in. There can be. There must.

"If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable; think of it as a place of training and correction and it's not so bad." C.S. Lewis in One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp, pg 55.

I redeem time from neglect and apathy and inattentiveness when I swell with thanks and weigh the moment down and it's giveng thanks to God for this moment that multiplies the moments, time made enough. Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, pg 72.

One act of thanksgiving, when things go wrong with us, is worth a thousand thanks when things are agreeable to our inclinations. Saint John of Avila in One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp, pg. 79.

What in the world, in a world of certain loss, is grace? And the more of the blessings I name, this theological problem deepens, the kind that manifest itself between the breakfast table and last light out. If I am numbering gift moments to one thousand and now beyond - what moments in my life count as blessings? If I name this moment as gift, grace, what is the next moment? Curse? How do you know how to sift through a day, a life, and rightly read the graces, rightly ascertain the curses? What is good? What counts as grace? What is the heart of God? Do  I believe in a God who rouses Himself just now and then to spill a bit of benevolence on hemorrhaging humanity? A God who breaks through the carapace of this orb only now and then, surprises us with a spared hand, a reprieve from sickness, a good job and a nice house in the burbs - and then finds Himself again too impotent to deal with all I see as suffering and evil? A God of sporadic, random, splattering, goodness - that now and then splatters across a gratitude journal? Somebody tell me: What are all the other moments? Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, pg 85.

Count blessings and discover Who can be counted on. Isn't that what had been happening, quite unexpectedly? This living a lifestyle of intentional gratitude became and unintentional test in the trustworthiness of God - and in counting blessings I stumbled upon the way out of fear.  Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, pg 151.  

Remembering frames up gratitude. Gratitude lays out the planks of trust. I can walk the planks - from known to unknown - and know: He holds. Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, pg 152.

Maybe, without the context of the rest of the words, of her story, these words don't carry the weight with which they drove into my heart. And, if that is the case, then I can safetly say that once again, this was a book chosen at the perfect time to speak.

And so I hear it:

Give thanks to the Lord of Lords. 
His faithful love endures forever. 
Give thanks to him who alone does mighty miracles. 
His faithful love endures forever. 
Give thanks to him who made the heavens so skillfully. 
His faithful love endures forever. 
Give thanks to him who placed the earth among the waters. 
His faithful love endures forever. 
Give thanks to him who made the heavenly lights - 
His faithful love endures forever. 
Psalm 136:3-7

I will practice thanksgiving even when I don't feel it. When I'm angry and frustrated and ready to quit. I will look for His good gifts even when I don't see them. I will trust that He is there and He is good even when everyone and everything would try to tell me otherwise because I know that the God that I see in the good things, in every good and perfect gift, is bringing moments of eucharisto, of great thanks, into the darkness as well.  I will give thanks because I have to to survive today. To live. And perhaps, in the living, to experience joy.

1 comment:

Mama Bean said...

Sorry you were/are having a rough go. Glad you're enjoying the book.