Who am I to speak of hope when I haven’t known loss?
Who am I to speak of comfort when I haven’t known pain?
Who am I to speak of joy when I haven’t known grief?
Who am I to speak of gratitude when I haven’t been destitute?
These questions seep through my thoughts as I change my healthy 14 month old son’s diapers, as I watch the ducks with my joy-filled 3 year old at a nearby pond, as I take an evening walk around our safe, friendly neighbourhood.
I read stories of others who have buried a daughter, a son. And I complain about an irritable toddler. People who have been killed because of their belief in a particular God. Dieing for a faith I struggle to commit to in my country of freedom.
I read the letter this week from a child I sponsor in Ethiopia. He tells me about the 149 children abducted in the Gambella region which left more than 200 people dead earlier this year. While I was stressing over birthday party decorations. He writes this in between sentences about his grades not being as high as he would like, and being a part of the worship team at his church.
I have everything I need and so much more. I have never gone hungry. I have never been without a roof over my head.
Shouldn’t I just quietly place the peanut butter in the food bank donation box and be on my way. Stop trying to make something more of my life, stop feeling ungrateful, stop searching for purpose, stop writing about inconsequential things.
Later I read Ann Voskamp’s words and tears fill my eyes as the truth fills my heart:
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…How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us? The clouds open when we mouth thanks.
I know deep down that I am not to feel guilty about my blessings. About my place in life. For one day I will know pain. It might be tomorrow or 50 years from now. Whether life is pleasant or bleak I am to give thanks.
It is a daily practice. Something to work at with a farmer’s discipline. Because I have everything and yet I still want. I have to fight against this nature. I was born with this nature. I know, because there is a story of two people, at the very beginning of it all, who were given everything, they were given all Beauty and True Love itself, and they were still unsatisfied. They still wanted more.
Even in my life of privilege and trivial problems I have a nature that is innately dissatisfied. I hate this ugliness in me. Especially when I see children starving, mothers and fathers hurting, violence destroying entire nations.
But I won’t waste time criticizing myself for my selfishness. It is the human condition. It is my condition. Instead, I will work on thankfulness. My faithfulness in all the little things. And God knows it’s a struggle for me. The pouring of love on my children even in their disobedience. The kindness to my husband even in busyness and distraction. The care for my friends who may be preoccupied or dealing with their own struggles. The love for myself, my body, and all of its’ imperfection.
And the placing of the peanut butter in the food bank box.
If I can’t be faithful in all of these little things, how will I hold tightly to the rock of trust when life comes down hard with hail?
If I cannot be grateful when the sun is shining, how will I give thanks when a storm rages?
I have so much. But even if I didn’t, I must practice gratitude. In all things. Practice finding joy. In every circumstance. And trust this is what the world needs from me right now. And tomorrow. And the day after that. Whether I am well or sick. Lonely or in company. Safe or in danger. Hands full or empty. Heart whole or broken.
Holding on to what is good. And giving thanks.