Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15
If I am in my car sometimes between noon and two o’clock, I listen to a particular talk radio program where people call in for advice and counsel. Some days I cringe when I hear the caller lay out a situation, because the host’s main concern is not to win popularity contests but to speak the truth, however painful that may be to hear. And at times the truth is fairly brutal.
I was driving to school one day to pick Christian up and I tuned in to the show. The woman caller was very upset at her stepmother who had never lived up to the daughter’s expectations of what a mother should be. The caller had never known her own mother, and for thirty years she had allowed herself to be wounded over and over when her new “mom” didn’t measure up.
I felt real sympathy for this woman. There are so many things in life that are just not fair. Life seems random and cruel to many people who are rejected over and over again.
The host didn’t appear to share my sympathy. And I was struck by her simple message that has enormous potential to impact our lives. I’m paraphrasing a little, but she said something like this:
You have a choice. You can spend your life being angry at what you did not get out of life or you can count your blessings for what you have.
I thought about what she said for some time. We all have losses in our lives. But if we choose to feast on them every day, they numb our souls to all the good that God pours out on us every day. I still miss my dad. I would love to have grown up with a father. I would love to have been able to talk to him about men, to tell him when I was afraid, to have him tell me that I was beautiful, but he died when I was a child. Sometimes at school functions I would look at other fathers and wish that I was at my dad’s side. I could have spent the rest of my life regretting that or blaming my poor choices or lack of courage on the fact that I lost my father, but the flip side has much more to offer. I have a wonderful mother, who was there for me in ways that my friends with two parents didn’t always experience.
We can choose to remain in a “stuck” place regretting what is not, or we can become alive and fully awake to what is good and true about our lives.
That evening, as I took our dogs for a long walk, I watched the sunset over our lake as I reflected on the day. I thought again that sometimes we don’t notice what we have in our own backyards because it doesn’t look like we think it should. I’m sure your childhood was not perfect. Maybe your loss or anger involves your dad or your husband or your wife or your stepson or yourself. Sometimes we are so aware of what is not there that we miss what we have. Yet the very act of being grateful for what we do have multiplies our gratitude and opens our eyes so that we see that we have even more than we thought we had at the start.
Can a grateful heart change our actions and our relationships? The woman who called the radio show will never have the mother of her dreams, but I propose that by loving her mother and encouraging her and being the kind of daughter she herself would like to have, the caller might see the step mom blossom. Yet even if that does not happen, it is the right thing to do, to choose to act with a grateful heart. Cultivating gratitude removes us from being victims to being free to love and act as we are called to do.
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul encouraged the church to let the peace of Christ rule in their hearts. I believe that living with a thankful heart is a large part of that process. Waking the soul is more than a one-time conversion. It is a daily turning from what is destructive to what is Christ like.
If this sounds too Pollyanna-like for you, let me remind you of several things that are true for those who follow after Christ:
1. God loves you more than you will ever comprehend on this earth.
2. Christ has already paid for your sins. Your bill is paid in full.
3. Your eternal home is secure with him in heaven.
4. There will come a day when every tear will be wiped away and every heart be made new.
5. You are not alone, for Christ is with you every moment of every day.
6. You are a child of the King of Kings. That is your eternal identity.
I know that life can be hard sometimes, and I encourage you to take time to grieve your losses. But do not be defined by them. Use them by the grace and strength of God as stepping-stones to a deeper life, a life of peace, a life lived with a thankful heart.
Thank you that you love me.
Thank you that my home is secure with you for eternity.
Thank you that because of you I am never alone.
Check back on Monday’s and Thursday’s for new posts from Sheila.