A friend told me this morning about getting nominated for the 7-Day Gratitude Challenge on Facebook, and how uplifting she found it to name three things every day that she was thankful for– how it turned her eyes to God’s goodness and filled her heart with unexpected joy. Her story was like a light shining into my week turned burdened and gray with the dust of this world… the way windows can get grimy with the everyday accumulation, until the sun’s rays illuminate all the dirt getting in the way of seeing. It reminded me that I used to give thanks every day and that I had stopped for some reason. It reminded me of Paul’s injunction to the Christ-followers of centuries past: “…be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19-20) He understood how we need to do that for one another, to call each other back to truth and thankfulness and right thinking, almost constantly.
And the thing is, I know the slow soul-drain of fixing my eyes on what is immediately before me– the microscopic view of my little world with only this life in mind, and how very weary it is. I’ve been here before and by now I know the only remedy is to “turn [my] eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” (Helen Lemmel) So how is it that I find myself here again and in need of a heart-check? When I am counting His blessings, tuning my heart to sing His praise, that is when I am most happy; that is when my soul feels most alive; that is when I can look ahead with hope for whatever comes. Looking back, it’s hard to pinpoint when I stopped remembering to give thanks, and why exactly– although I do remember a delusional moment of self-congratulation, in which I thought the habit of thankfulness so well-worn it needed no more daily discipline. If there was a turning point, that was certainly one.
I see that whenever we are satisfied with where we are, we are most in danger of losing focus. We need to hear each other’s stories, see each other’s growth, allow the grace that flows from the gifts of others into our own lives. “…Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16) There really is no substitute for this kind of community. Whenever we are isolated from the rest of the Body, whether by circumstances or choices, we become handicapped in our growth. We need the prayers and encouragement of others, to remind us of who we are and where we are going– to remind us to give thanks in all things. Living in community helps us to regularly wipe away the dust and grime of everyday living, so that God’s light can shine through more clearly. Living in community helps to keep us on track in this faith-race, speaking the Truth to one another in every way possible, so that no one gets lost along the way, or gets left behind.
So this week I am getting back to the basics, and counting what I am thankful for, once again. First on the list is this community of Christ-followers.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24)
“There are people who take the heart out of you, and there are people who put it back.” (Elizabeth David)