On receiving incredible blessings
I don’t allow myself to do this very often, but recently, I took stock of just how blessed I am in my life. This reflection was initially no gushing to God for all His greatness. In fact, if I just let my mind meander through my most recent history, my knee would certainly not jerk in the direction of a prayer of thanksgiving.
I think that most of the time, giving thanks is something that is done so mindlessly, that I just kind of mumble the words as a guilty lucky charm of some sort. It’s as if I know that I *should* give thanks, and if I don’t, I’ll somehow be struck down by a bolt of God’s frightful anger. Each instance in life, like saying a blessing over some food or breathing a, “Thank you, Jesus,” when I narrowly miss being stuck behind the train, comes with a two switches: default and genuine. Funny enough, my switch is often flipped over to the complacent side.
The sun breaks through, on occasion, like it did a couple days ago. I was wandering around through the Tuscan countryside, nervous because I couldn’t find the church I was supposed to be attending for Sabbath services, when I stopped long enough to just breathe in the incredible beauty around me. Here I was, a pedestrian sharing the narrow lane with speeding cars and motorbikes, performing what should now be called a death-defying stunt (crossing the street), and I was alive. The word “epiphany” comes to mind, but that wasn’t it, exactly. Let’s just say that I was acutely aware of myself in my surroundings and consequently, my place in the universe. There I was, a lone figure on a paved road, trudging through weeds and asphalt. There were some lemon trees, over there, and the sound of bugs harmonizing behind rocks. Sweat spread out on my back and I could almost see it, soaking through my sweater. Sweater, isn’t it too hot for a sweater? For, I was aware, too, of how the sun was warming the previously chilly air into a perfect spring morning. Step, step, step, and now I am adjacent to a rock wall. Look down. Are those Iceland poppies? A favorite flower that I had never seen “up close and personal”. First Sabbath morning on Earth – was it like this when God rested from His masterpiece-making?
This went on for a little while until I turned down an even quieter street that I thought would lead me right to the church. Instead, I met a scruffy dog who was not keen on letting me past. At first, I stopped, but then I reasoned that although he couldn’t see the fear in my eyes (I was wearing gigantic sunglasses), he could probably smell it wafting off of me. Tensing up, I turned and walked a few steps. He stopped barking, but resumed when I tried, again, to pass him. Not wanting to get mauled by a dog so far from people with whom I could communicate, I dejectedly turned back towards the main road. “God,” I moaned, “I just want to go to church. I can’t believe that I’ve hiked this far and that silly dog is keeping me from the path! Just please, protect me and let me go to church!” Turning back, I saw that the dog had followed me. Conjuring up as many helpful verses as I could (the “He will give His angels charge over thee” one was key), I bit down and walked towards him. I made it far enough down the path to see that the road dead ended. Now I knew that he was guarding an empty lot.
The pleasant feelings from before were replaced with desperation. I asked for help in my broken and halting Italian and got about 5 conflicting sets of directions. I probably hiked about four miles until a little nudge moved me to just take the bus back in the direction from where I had come. Passing a stop, I happened to turn around and look and…there it was. The church.
I say all this to solidify, more for myself, that even though the feelings of blessedness are fleeting, they come and go for a reason. There is a certain art in catching those moments and reveling in them at that exact time. We must latch onto them because we never know what is around the corner. Without those moments of realization, thankfulness, and praise, we would be most miserable as it would seem that God never intervened in our lives. There are many times when we walk in clouds of darkness, in the valley of the shadow of death – oh yes. However, we should be able to enumerate our blessings, even in the fire. I believe that becomes more natural and genuine when we can wholeheartedly praise God in the times of plenty. We tend to characterize the “good times” as the times when it is easy to thank God. Contrarily, perhaps more effort is actually needed in these times – perhaps we need more awareness of the depths of the blessings, no matter how small, and how much they are integral to the current pattern in our tapestry. I should not mumble things that I “ought” because it is the right thing to do. I should be able to scream these things from the rooftops because the scales have fallen off my eyes and I can see that God has truly blessed me and put me in a position for “such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14) Isn’t that the true essence of a living faith – a life lived completely full of the Master, where His blessings are the food that sustain us?
Of course, now, I am in the mode of constantly reminding myself of these things. Sometimes, it is obvious, but other times, I want to rail against God and beat my fists against His chest in anger and frustration, all the “why?!”s spilling out into the universe. Once the calm and the quiet settle in, however, I can see some of the threads as they tighten into the cloth and become part of the whole weave that only God can see right now. A lot of those threads are frayed, but even more are gilt with gold and form pure and gorgeous patterns that incorporate the worn threads.
I look forward to the day in God’s kingdom when I can hold the fabric in my hands and hold it up in His glorious light, turning it this way and that and admiring the awesome and perfect craftsmanship. But for now, I must trust that I have received the incredible from the Invincible and everything, in His capable hands, is as it should be.