Friday, November 20, 2015

One thing to be thankful for (that's not based on your circumstances)

I know that's kind of a weird picture to open a blog post with, so let me explain...

I grew up going to church, being taught about God, and hearing the Bible – often. I heard and read about how God is powerful and that he works in our lives; that he loves us and wants us to know him, intimately. I grew up in a church that had members who were black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Jamaican, and many other things. I heard that this wasn’t really the norm – to be a part of a church that is so diverse - but I had never seen or known anything different. And so, without realizing it of course, I’d become used to it. I got used to seeing people from different walks of life genuinely love each other and I got used to knowing a God who turns darkness into light and despair into hope.

But last night, I got to experience something moving and inspiring; the kind of thing that makes you go, “This is what life is about.” The kind of thing that reminds me of what I have to be grateful for, that has absolutely nothing to do with the current circumstances of my life. 

As we do each week, our church met together during the week. Normally, we meet in small groups in our homes, but one week out of the month, we all meet together. And in the spirit of Thanksgiving, as we met not so much as a church group but as family, people got up and shared what they are most grateful for in their story of conversion. As people shared the thing they were most thankful for, they shared their stories. The stories of how God had been working throughout their life and weaving people and places, in and out, to bring them to Him. Hardships were turned to joy, closed doors opened into hope, deaths brought about life, and loneliness turned to belonging as people let their hearts respond to God and what he was doing in their lives.

As I sat there listening to person after person share their individual experience and the unique way that God drew them to him, I was left dumbfounded. God worked in the very details, every day, of these 20 souls. And I was reminded – it is not just those 20 people. God has worked in the very details, every day, of my life since before I was born. He’s done it in my parents’ lives and my brother’s life; my husband and my college roommate’s lives; and he keeps doing it. God continues to twist and turn my life, my marriage, my job, my coworkers’ lives and my neighbors’ lives to seek him and find him. And even when we can’t see it or understand how, he is molding and shaping the events of this world, the lives of the major players and all the seemingly insignificant people in between, so we might know Him.

And the truly astounding thing about watching all these people share how God worked in their lives is this: I would not know a single one of them if it wasn’t for God’s involvement. If God didn’t care about us, if he didn’t work out each detail, each encounter, each up and down to help us see him and know him, I would never have met anyone I listened to last night. I certainly wouldn’t have my brother (who was adopted) or have met my husband (whom I met in South Africa on a year-long mission trip).  

So, this Thanksgiving, I am focusing my gratitude on how God has moved in my life and always will. Even on hard days and in dark moments – which seem to occur far more often than we all wish - when I wonder if God has stopped weaving and working in my life or the lives of those around me, I can remember a night like last night and look at people all around me, and see that God is in fact, still working. Not only has his shaping and braiding of the people, events, and circumstance in my life allowed me to know Him – this sovereign, loving, and humble God – but it has given me relationships, depth, fulfillment, and adventure, far beyond what I could imagine or what I have ever seen possible in this world. And the story is not over. If you don’t feel that you’ve had those things in your life or you can’t see how God has been working, I hope you will search for Him and see what he can do. He is not far from each one of us.