I had another one of those ‘moments’ this morning at church. The sermon brought up thankfulness. “Oh, sure!,” you might be thinking, “yeah, yeah, take what you’ve got and be thankful and all that . . . but my life is a hot mess!” I implore you to stick around for a minute, though, because this makes profound sense!
I won’t go into the sermon, you can read it on www.gracecc.org (5/16/10), if you are so inclined, but I want to talk about something I see in my work all the time. I see men and women (myself included) who have hit absolute rock bottom. I mean the bone-shattering, life-gutting, I-absolutely-cannot-go-on-any-longer, rock bottom. I frequently talk about the effects that it has on people, how they could only see the world through their narrow little self-focused lens before, but now that they’ve hit rock bottom, they have unbelievable clarity! Funny how you can see so clearly when you’re down in the gutter looking up!
This morning’s sermon, though, gave me an insight I hadn’t put my finger on before. The thing that we see when we are in the gutter, or at rock bottom, is thankfulness! Sounds weird, I know, because thankfulness is the last thing we are thinking about in the midst of that horrible pain! What I mean is that we sort of have thankfulness “in reverse”. Suddenly, we become thankful for our spouse, our kids, our parents, our job, once we lose them!
How many times have I seen a husband broken and humbled and in excruciating pain because his wife left him out of the blue? He suddenly sees himself clearly through her eyes and sees that he’s been very difficult to live with! He may have been negative or abusive or volatile or critical, but now he is thankful for his wife and he wants her, now that he may lose her. I’ve seen other men whose wives have dragged them into counseling, but they don’t get it yet. I try to tell them, “At least your wife still wants to be with you!” What I am really trying to say is that one day, when she gets fed up, you’ll finally be thankful for her, but it may then be too late!
I know another guy who spent all of his time hating his job, just hating it! All he could see was that the company didn’t appreciate him enough or pay him enough or respect him enough. He finally jumped off onto another ship, no doubt saying “So long!” with a kind of wicked, I-told-you-so grin. In a matter of weeks, he realized how much he hated his new job. It just didn’t fit him. As the days and weeks at the new job drudged on, he suddenly became very thankful for his old job and longed for its comforts. Amazingly, he really wanted his old job back! Now, however, the company required credentials he didn’t have for new hires. He had to go back to school and work very hard to get his old job, that he had hated, back!! He did, however, and now he works there and is very happy and thankful for his job.
Another lady had convinced herself that her husband was horrible. She had an affair and left her husband abruptly. She would not hear a word about reconciliation even after he had hit his rock bottom and realized his shortcomings. Once the newness of the affair wore off, however, she began to think about the good things about her now ex-husband and even began to yearn for him! When he began to date other women, suddenly she began the descent into her rock bottom. She was now thankful for the good things about her husband and willing to work on the not so good things, but it may have been too late!
I encourage you to give this some thought. Are you constantly looking out the ‘what I hate’ window? Or the ‘what I don’t have’ window? Or the ‘what’s gone wrong’ window? Can you force yourself to look out of the thankfulness window? There must be something good about your kids, your spouse, your mother, your father, your friends, your job, your house, your life! Trust me, if there is any other way to find thankfulness, you’re going to want to find it and do it now! Going the ‘rock bottom’ route is excruciatingly painful and, although you’ll learn the lessons and learn them good, it is not fun and it is not pretty!! Learning to be thankful for what you’ve got in your life now can save you a ton of pain down the road!