Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Giving Thanks In Dark Places

The title of this post was also the title of Lisa's sermon from the Thanksgiving service tonight at church. 1 Thessalonians and Acts 16 were called in to service. The first has Paul's admonition to pray without ceasing and give thanks in all things. The second is the story of Paul and Silas in prison, after having been beaten and put in stocks, sitting in their cell, singing hymns and praising God.

The service was wonderful, and fed me, spiritually, as well as forcing me to think about all sorts of things that made me uncomfortable, and see things in a new light. I am so pampered. I have a home, a family that is a greater blessing than I could ever have imagined. I am gainfully employed (for now), and am anticipating a wonderful Thanksgiving surrounded by my wife's family, with a table overflowing with food and conversation and laughter. I am healthy, almost robustly so, in better physical condition than when I was a high school athlete (too long ago to think about). I have good friends, a church family that is one of the most open, loving, giving communities imaginable. All that I could imagine complaining about is so small compared to the many blessings of a good God.

Yet, complain I do, and usually content myself that, in so doing, I am only being human, nothing wrong with that. Except, of course, my complaints are a kind of spiritual forgetfulness, aren't they? They are, in a sense, a desire to want more. More comfort, have things go my way more. They are nothing more or less than attempts to make myself the center of action and attention. In reality, I have nothing at all to complain about; I am blessed beyond measure, and certainly beyond dessert, and should be thankful for all I have.

There is a deeper lesson here, for all of us. We have, all of us, desired so much more. More stuff, more freedom from the burdens of responsibility to our neighbors and communities. We would prefer the world understand us, rather than seek to understand others. We much prefer to be loved than to love. In the crush and pressure and stress not just of everyday life, but of our particular historical moment, we forget the many, many ways we have all been blessed, and how much of what we take for granted is nothing but dross, brands that should be plucked for burning. Our lives would be just as full if all that were gone in a flash, because we might then recall that it is God alone upon whom we should rely.

So, the irony is, it seems, that where there is faith, there are no dark places. . .

Virtual Tin Cup

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