In the past few weeks I have been fascinated (picture Spock raising and eyebrow and saying “fascinating”:-)) by people’s response to me. I keep hearing that I am an inspiration:-), that people are so encouraged by my attitude, that I have–just by having this disease, and having the attitude I have–already helped some others. And I am blown away that they see me that way.
To be clear, this is not false modesty. It’s just that I know who I am–and who I am not. And I know I’m not a spiritual giant. I always wondered how I would actually react if I got the kind of news I saw others wrestle with. Then I got a phone call telling me I have a rare and incurable form of cancer.
I talked with the Lord immediately–as the doctor was talking with me. I said, “Ok, Lord, here it comes. How can I be faithful in this (not a rhetorical question!)? And my mind shifted. It isn’t about my faithfulness. It is about his.
So, I remembered. All the things over my life he has given me. And all the things that could–and probably should–have happened that didn’t! I was so struck by his faithfulness that I was simply grateful. It didn’t mean I liked what was happening to me. It just meant I saw it differently than some others do.
Then I started thinking. This is big. This isn’t just about crisis. This is about mundane, everyday life. So many of us struggle with out attitude about our lives. We’re “bored”. We’re depressed (not just the clinical, medical issue). We’re frustrated–and angry. Because it is so easy to look at what might have been and isn’t.
But do we see clearly what is? The Hebrew writer said: “since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28, NASU). Such a huge statement–and so easily missed. I confess I have read this–and even taught it–dozens if not hundreds of times before this sunk in. Why do so many of us struggle with our attitudes? Because we are focused on ourselves, and our disappointments, instead of what God has given us–a relationship with himself! Why do we struggle in life to maintain that sense of reverence and awe before God? Because we aren’t grateful.
The good news is, this is correctable. The problem is, we usually start with the second of a two-part process, and skip the part that makes certain we achieve that gratitude. So, here’s my recipe:-).
Part 1–Focus on what you really deserve, and what you don’t. I am a sinner. That isn’t just an academic realization–it is a horrible fact I become more aware of the longer I serve the King. I deserve destruction and punishment–period. I do NOT deserve to be: forgiven; given the opportunity to have a new life; given the chance to work alongside my King, even though he could do everything better himself; given the love and loyalty of the wonderful woman who has shared my life since we were 18, or the children, children-in-law, and grandkids he has given; and certainly not the promise of being a co-heir of the eternal Kingdom of God. And I don’t deserve the friendship I have with many of you.
Now I am ready for the good stuff!
Part 2–I have not been given what I deserve (that’s mercy), and I HAVE been given all the things I don’t deserve (that’s grace) I listed above. So, I remind myself of those things, and I stand in awe at what the Lord has done.
And everything else that happens in my life becomes small before him.
I hope you you will join me in these two steps. God has given me life today, and I live it for him!