Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Gratitude

"God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: Joy"
One Thousand Gifts, 57
"Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!"..."this is the day that the Lord has made I will rejoice and be glad in it"..."a cheerful heart is good medicine." Rejoice in the Lord. Okay, maybe sometimes that's do able, like when I make a good grade on a test, but always? That's a little much. And a cheerful heart? I know I definitely don't want to be that obnoxiously optimistic girl. No thanks. I'd rather be real. You know, honest, dry, and slightly skeptical about everything- always saying what's on my mind. I'm done with all of this forced optimism about how great everything is because God loves me, because honestly I have bad days and lots of them. So no, just because God loves me doesn't mean my bad days are instantly made better. I just want to be genuine. Yes, I'd love to be able to be joyful about everything, but I'm tired of faking it. 

I've been on a hunt for joy for a long time. How do I live my life with a purpose- with actual life - with genuine joy? I decided to stop trying to be the person who had it together all the time (not that I every really was, but I stopped making an effort to be). Instead, I starting laying it all out there for everyone to see. If I was having a problem, it's very likely that everyone around me was aware. I may have been a bit of a pessimist, but atleast it's genuine...right? As I slowly became more and more of a complainer, I started to realize that maybe this whole effort to be "real" was not the best thing. Had I been seeking to find my identity in Christ, that would be a different story. But, as I journeyed to find "myself" apart from Him, I found exactly what I am without Him- a dirty, sinful person who had nothing to offer and found no real joy in life.

It wasn't until I started reading One Thousand Gifts (through my wonderful Bible Study!), that the Lord really started opening my eyes to all of this. In fact, it wasn't until the other morning as I was reading in chapter 3 that it all began to sink in. The author had previously wrote about how giving thanks for everything is the key to living a full life. She points out that in doing this, we recognize what God has done for us. This act of giving thanks puts us in a position of humility- where we understand that all good things come from the Lord. All good things are because of God's love for us. "It's our lives that are little and we have falsely inflated ourself, and in thanks we decrease and the world returns right" (59) This complaining that I had become so accustomed to was not just a result of my disssatisfaction- it was something far worse. This was me rejecting not only the blessings that the Lord has given me- but His love for me

Every single time I complain about something I am rejecting the way that God has chosen to love me. I'm rejecting Christ's work on the cross. I'm rejecting His eternal grace. I'm rejecting the full life that He offers me. With my ingratitude, I tell God that He is not good enough. And when I finally saw that THIS is what my ingratitude really meant, it shook my world. It hurt my heart. I have been rejecting the way God loves me, because I can't stop focusing on myself long enough to see the exponential amount of blessings that the Lord gives me on a daily basis...because He loves me. He loves me. I don't deserve it. He loves me, ungrateful, self centered, Madelyn. He loves me, and will continue to no matter what. That my friends, will bring you to your knees.
I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for the early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of the crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives. Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn't rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world.
Thanks isn't always natural, it takes effort. It requires a habit to be formed. But when you see yourself through the correct lens- a sinner saved and made beautiful only by the grace of God - it changes everything. You appreciate the little things. You realize that each and every moment in your life matters. It's all intentional. Every day is a gift of God's love and to neglect that is to throw away something beautiful. 

"Teach us, O Lord, to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."

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