Last week I was talking with a good group of ladies from Providence Presbyterian Church about the need to be thankful not only for our big blessings, but for our little ones as well. I’ll admit, for me, it sometimes seems silly to be thankful for the personal, tiny pieces of happiness that cross my path. Almost presumptuous to assume that God really cares about the fact that today I got to drink my morning tea, in peace, from my favorite hand-made pottery mug. Other people (including me) have problems so much bigger than morning chaos or thrice-microwaved-mugs of lukewarm drink. Should we disregard our blessings because we feel ashamed for being privileged? Would it be better to, as one author puts it,”stand in solidarity” with those who are hurting? To refuse to rejoice in the small things out of a fear of looking shallow? I don’t know. If the kingdom of heaven belongs to those that are childlike in their thinking, then maybe not.
That same day I went about making an effort to change my perspective. I went to pick up some bananas at the store and was immediately thankful to see that the bananas on display were perfectly ripe. After mentally noting my happiness, I quipped to the employee working on the stand, “Did you pick out those pretty bananas just for me?” (Actually, I think I accidentally said “purty”, in my worst southern accent.) As he rearranged the bananas, he looked up and said pleasantly, “Yeah, we’re picking out all the ugly ones for Second Harvest and leaving the pretty ones just for you.”
Ouch. It was meant as a reassurance, but it hurt. We’re picking out the ugly ones for Second Harvest. We’re giving the ugly ones as our act of service so that you can have the pretty bananas. Being practical, I know that’s what stores do, and it’s better than the alternative of throwing them away. But how often do we do this ourselves? Buy the cheap toothbrushes to fill that Christmas Child box, get the off brand baby doll or box of Mac n’Cheese to help make someone elses’ Christmas wishes “come true”? Arguably, you may be doing these things to maximize your impact- buying cheaper means buying more, right? Maybe. Or maybe we could give our best until it hurts. Are we only happy when the pretty bananas are for us?
Once again questioning whether or not I should be allowed to rejoice in my own blessings in the face of situations like these, God whispered something to my heart. It was ok, and good, even, to be thankful for every little thing. The real question is, would the lack of those things threaten my relationship with God? I can be really excited about a great cup of tea in the morning- but would the lack of it “ruin” my day? Or my attitude? Should I be happy to get good bananas? You bet. But if God asked me to take the ugly ones while someone else less fortunate got the pretty ones, would I be ok with that? Better yet,would I be able to rejoice in that? And the biggest question- what if the pretty bananas were given to someone I felt was more blessed than me already? Can I be thankful for the wisdom of His decisions even then?
In the book, Counterfeit Gods, there is a biblical quote from Genesis that the author uses to describe our earthy disappointments. “And in the morning, behold, it was Leah.” He proposes that we seek after the Rachels (or counterfeit Gods in our life), getting so wrapped up in the belief that these things are what will make us happy, that even when we finally grasp what we think are the “Rachels”, ultimately, in the morning it’s always Leah. When we think we have finally grasped the things necessary for our happiness, the next morning they aren’t what we imagined they were after all.
We should find happiness in all the small things- but only because in them we see God. We must realize that our joy comes from the God we are seeing- his personality, character, aspects, artistic ability, complexity, etc. We should be grateful for that beautiful melody, wafting breeze, or velvety petal. But not because of the blessings themselves, because of what they reflect. It’s not being shallow, it’s being worshipful. Therefore, we are put in a position that allows us to still remain happy, even if these blessings are removed, because while the art can be destroyed, the artist still remains. The pretty bananas may all be gone, but their maker is still there.
How does this apply to those of us in the disability community? I think that sometimes we hang our hopes on what’s not wrong with us at the moment. I may have *this* going on, but I am going to praise God I’ve not got *that*. Great. Be happy and say thank you for your blessings. But what if your *that* came true? What if your circumstances changed? What if your gifts were taken away and you were suddenly faced with more challenges than you’ve ever had before? Can you still be thankful? Can you still see God? If not, sometimes looking for the tiniest blessings is a good place to start. They’re pin-prick windows that may allow you to gaze on his character again.