Last night the power went out. I hope you walked outside. It was brighter outside than it was in my house. I hope you drove through town and marveled. We sure did. I hope you thoroughly enjoyed it.
Every day we have a chance to open our hands and receive whatever comes our way. Sometimes it’s pain and sometimes it’s inconvenience. But for the Christian, it’s always promised to be transformed into good. And thanksgiving really opens our eyes to see the good in all things.
I think we, Americans especially, tend to only like things when they meet our expectations. I also think this past year was intended to make us more pliable. Nothing really went according to expectation. In fact, the entire year felt a little like being hit with a tornado. Tornados don’t leave things in the same shape they were in before, nor do they fit tidily into our carefully-crafted agenda. When a tornado hits, everything is upheaved, upended, and wildly out-of-sorts, at least according to our understanding.
Once upon a time, a friend of mine’s car got pummeled by a taxi cab driver that nodded off on some sort of substance that earned him a prison sentence. Their car then crashed into the backside of our motorhome (destroying the back wall and the frame. The same back wall our infant son had been lying against, moments earlier, and would have still been, had we not listened to the Spirit of God against our earthly logic). Just before the wreck, our friends were trying to figure out what to do with the car, whether to sell it, donate it, or dump it, and we were praying for a more stationary house. In one fell swoop, God answered both our prayers… though not in the way we would have chosen. This solution left Smiles and I, with two little kids, homeless for 6 months.
I tell you (a very condensed very of) this story, because I am making a point that just because things don’t go the way we want or expect doesn’t mean our hard circumstances aren’t like wrapping paper surrounding a blessing. In the destruction of our beloved house, we have seen a trillion blessings unfold. For one thing, we recognize the sovereign grace (and importance of immediate obedience) that saved one, and maybe even two, of our sons at a very young age. It would take me 10 minutes to go into all the details, providence, and blessings of the story.
Last night, none of us knew when the power would turn back on, or whether or not we’d be able to open our refrigerator for days. We may have worried about a generator and/or enough gas to power it, or whether or not we had enough gas in the tank to make it home. Many went to bed fretting, I’m sure.
Then there were those of us who wandered outside and gave thanks. Those of us who realized that sometimes living without a convenience can be the peephole into seeing something far more wonderful.
As I sat in a candlelit living room last night, knowing that no one would be able to turn on a computer and let the world’s bad news invade our conversation, I gave thanks. Because even though I had to squint a little harder to see the faces of my family (oh, my aging eyes!), none of us were distracted from one another by the silly things that accommodate us when we have electricity. We made a fun memory with our youngest son, by driving to the top of the Ridges, then Court St., then State St., marveling at what places look like when the light goes out, laughing about the line at Steak-N-Shake (one of the only two restaurants we saw open) and how it looked like a line at Disneyland. Last night would have been so ordinary, had the power not gone out.
I say all of this, not to shame anyone that didn’t appreciate the power outage last night, but to encourage us all to open the hand and give thanks for all things. We will always be enduring circumstances we don’t particularly like or choose for ourselves, some far less lovely than a power outages. We want to build up the muscle-memory to give thanks, so when a tsunami hits, we’ve already learned to surf in kinder waves.
Blessings to all.