I’m thankful for the struggles I’ve gone through in life. I’m thankful for God’s presence through some very rough patches, that have continued to form who I am, and who I’m becoming. Like most people, I didn’t have a perfect life growing up. There were imperfections, trials, etc…but there were also beautiful moments of transformation. There were words spoken of hope, and identity in Christ. There were moments of trust and love seemingly undeserved – that went to the very core of my being. I’m thankful for a life that lent itself to being sensitive to moments like those. If life had been perfect, I’m not sure how aware I would have been of all God was offering me.
We were reminded last night of Moses warning the people of Israel before they entered the promised land. Warning them that as they experience prosperity, they will also experience less of a need for God. Less of a natural thankfulness for all He’s doing for them. He knew that prosperity would lead them to exalt “self”, and gain confidence in their own power and might.
We have more than a small amount of that these days. We’re also told by most sources, that the best way to raise your children is to give them everything they need. Some might even say, everything they want. Especially this time of year, we sit them on Santa’s lap and listen closely to what they tell him. We hope that we can provide most of the significant things they whisper. Many of us justify it, also, by saying to ourselves, “I want to give my kids to kind of ______ that I never had.” We put band-aids over growing up “in want” by trying to give our kids everything off their list.
The result? Kids who want even more. Who move from one source of pleasure to the next, embracing a toy about as long as a sucker, and only getting upset at it’s absence when their sibling tries to check it out.
I’m thankful for all that not having a car has led me into experiencing. When our second car died earlier this year, we had (and still have) the choice to go looking for a cheap replacement. I never really stressed about it, and figured God might actually bring one our way, as He has twice in the past already. But this time, no call came from a philanthropic car owner. I learned how to navigate our city’s bus system, and have had great times meeting new people, and getting growled at by those who don’t carry the label “Morning Person” like I do. Just 2 weeks ago, my bus driver (named “Bubbles”), asked me, “I know you’re just a youth pastor, but would you pray?” She shared about her son, and another family friend who were going through large struggles. I’ve been praying since, and look forward every time I get to remind her she’s not carrying the burden alone.
So what does all of this mean? I’m not sure I could summarize it well enough. But I think it gives us permission to buy our children less, allow them to not get everything off their list, and learn to be thankful for what they do have. It means living our life “palms up”, always ready to receive, and always willing to give – thankfully in the name of Jesus…