Thankfulness. To be full of thanks, what a thing. If any one of us takes the time to reflect, we really can find things to be glad for in our lives. It takes no effort to see the things which are the downers. Watch this: the price of gas, the inability to sit in a restaurant buzzing to capacity, the insecurity of much of our employment, rising rental prices of houses and businesses, and the constant assault on our civil rights, I just rhymed off a handful, coming to mind, as if they had a life of their own. See, no skill is needed at all to do that.
But the practice of being thankful for all the good things is an acquired skill. It’s not that these things are rarer; it’s because we tend to gravitate to the path of least resistance. Simply put, scientifically, without maintenance, everything decays, breaks down or comes undone. However, if we get into the practice of maintenance, if we give them encouragement, things can turn in healthier directions.
Let’s take our communities, which means all of us, not just the other person; if we learn to talk civilly to our neighbours, learn to understand how they view life, we can find they feel that understanding being extended, and we will sense the security of knowing another life.
Or, if we maintain our health, we can have more vitality, and less struggle during virus scares. The odds of coming out healthy if we contract one are much greater. We can be thankful for good health even through these days.
Let’s take our family relationships; over the past week, our son Christopher, who many of our past readers know was a columnist for the Standard Newspaper, came to visit us with his wonderful bride Hannah, during the week of Colleen’s birthday and Thanksgiving. An affirming time together ensued, and we all came out of it with warm memories and established closeness. A new sister for some, a new daughter for us and life growing. God is Good!
This kind of thing can happen in many homes. If we choose to put aside persistent records of misunderstandings, we can learn to put our best foot forward again and do what Love would do. You see, it never fails: we may, and do, so no big surprise, yet God’s unrelenting Love remains. If we will submit to its training of our hearts, we will be stronger in its capacity and always, eventually, Love again.
Each of us knows so many people, enduring times of absence or times of struggle within the family. Maybe that’s even you. Really it doesn’t matter if someone sees things differently than you if they are also willing to step out of their own shoes when you do and into yours as you enter theirs. Just for the moment, if we abandon our premise and look through their pain or thoughts, and if they honestly do the same, there can be a huge meeting of the hearts. The common denominator is usually a lack of candid communication, something to fill with warmth and thoughtfulness. There is a strength in this vulnerability, clarity in this tenderness with each other. It takes the exercise of developing empathy, the ability to feel as others feel. If we begin to see we are all very similar, and it’s our experiences that are the biggest difference, we can begin to be thankful for the raw life in front of us.
As we all have, there are those darker spaces inside we try to keep hidden from the lives around us, but they inevitably leak out and scrape up against the lives we love, sometimes in wounding ways. For instance, I’ve always held my sister too high growing up and so had very high standards for the woman I would marry one day. Even though I may have given my beautiful wife hard times for many years throughout our married life, she has risen to the challenge. She was patient during our hard times, quietly praying for the change in my heart, which she knew only God could bring and who I would only allow to bring, because of my own trust issues with people before. Sorry sis, she reaches way past the struggles we had growing up, but thanks for being there. But you are also God’s gift.
Recently my sister was brought by Jesus to a moment of transparency and honour of her life. By way of hard, honest self-reflection, she asked for my perspective and forgiveness on some of the ways she treated me as we muddled through life when we were little. It was a mess, through no fault of our own, and all we had was each other, with our untaught defence mechanisms. Certainly, the adults around tried to break through and help but being mutually adopted and then coming back to our natural mother who had found a very good man had its minefield of problems.
Many of you know I am a counsellor, and I have practised for over 32 years. Let me tell you, I am so proud of the level of honesty my sister shared and her seeming willingness to continue in the hard work of real growth and maintenance of this path of change. That’s bravery of heart and the kind of thing which makes life better.
I am so thankful to God for the work He can do to set a heart free if it will yield to His gracious, determined Love.
Life itself is a gift, and we all need to thank the one who endowed us with this gift during this wonderful Season of Thanksgiving.