Yesterday was one of those days when I felt like I was walking against the wind so much of the day: straining uphill, my too-thin sweater tugged around me as I grimaced, head down. As my husband and I lifted down plates for dinner, I recounted the parts that made me want to tear my hair out. (Or maybe a small tuft of my children’s. …Joking.) In the course of things, I did remember some good points. Somehow, as I relayed them, they grew a little. I tucked my head with a smile.
He put his hands on my shoulder, leveled his hazel eyes with my blue ones. “I want you to know,” he said, “that you are incredibly blessed.”
Somehow, those words triggered that out-of-body sort of viewpoint I needed, to survey my life not from the perspective of loss, but of gain. Of beauty. Incredibly blessed?
Oh, yeah. Yeah. I am.
God’s been nailing this home, in this slightly Grinchy season of mine. I’ve written before—like the motorcycle knocking my son–about how one multifaceted diamond Africa has placed in my palms is to find the thankfulness lifeline before all things. Even when I’m feeling powerless. Broken. Angry. Isolated.
First: Be thankful.
Like the late theologian George Buttrick notes, in prayer, “[petition] comes last, not because it is most important, but because it needs the safeguard of earlier prayer”–like thanksgiving, confession, intercession. Looking at who God is, I’ve found, slides other portions of my soul into alignment. God plasters this everywhere in Scripture, a warm reminder to remember who He truly is on our days of bitterest cold: Come into His presence with thanksgiving…Be joyful always. I hear Him whisper: Choose this. Choose to believe who I truly am, even in the dark.
Last night, my nose in the Christmas story, I marveled again at Mary’s words—her song, really, spilling from something she can’t keep a lid on. My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
And I thought, This girl’s entire life plans and relationships have permanently been derailed. Every role she ever pictured for herself, every dream, has been indefinitely altered or postponed.
Yet she can’t contain her worship.
It reminded me of Job, who receives stabbing blow after stabbing blow as all he loves is ripped from him, his wounds freshly gaping and bleeding: Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped.
I don’t know about you, but all seemed as expected until that last little phrase. Utter grief is human. Worship in utter grief…is not.
Perhaps that is my postscript to Tackling Your Inner Grinch, because so many of us are sucking wind from our life circumstances at any given Christmas. As I choose thankfulness, it’s as if my world is thawing. Opaque slabs of ice slip off gifts I’d minimized or forgotten. I’m reminded that my identity, though wounded by loss, is not consumed by it. I am a citizen of Elsewhere, a cherished daughter.
Yes, I still believe wholeheartedly that, like Job (or again, Jesus at Lazarus’ tomb), we grieve. But even in our loss, our disappointment—when our plans or hopes feel like they’ve been smashed against a brick wall—there is deep, perhaps even deeper, worship. It’s Job’s later words that continue as the Braille on my blind days: Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him.
This Christmas, I am choosing to pray,
I will continue to thank You; to tip my eyes up. I will seek to acknowledge every single gift You’ve piled around me all my life—and all the ones I’m trusting You’ll reconcile–until it’s one seamless “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Till I can trust that every seeming dead end in my maze is only Him channeling my heart like a watercourse. Till I can believe that every shattering loss will, on eternity’s flipside, as suddenly and clearly as glass, be for the good of those who love Him. It’s like that country song, right? God bless the broken road that led me straight to you.
This Christmas, like Mary, may God take your broken road and along it, form striking praise.
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