Several weeks ago I had one of those moments where I was filled with a sense of gratitude. Sure I’ve had moments where I have deep sense of thankfulness that coincide with profound or moving moments in my life. My wedding and the birth of my child were certainly these type of moments filled with gratitude. This recent moment, however was not one of those types of moments.
In fact, what was remarkable about that moment was that it was, by all accounts, a rather unremarkable moment in my day. It was a rather ordinary Tuesday or Wednesday morning. I was walking through the hall at church on my way back to the office with a freshly brewed cup of coffee and I was going back to the office to do something mundane like check my email. It was not an especially good or bad day. And yet, as I walked a sudden and strong thought popped into my head: man, I’m really glad I’m here. It was this sense that even though it was just another day and there were still plenty of issues in the world, I was just really grateful to be in this place, in this time in my life, surrounded by the people who are in my life.
In that moment I found myself thankful for many of the things in life that one might easily look to. I was grateful for my wife who has walked with me through ups as down, the good times and the bad. I was grateful for my son. I’m still amazed that he’s a part of our life and that he calls me dad.
In that moment I found myself grateful for the people that I get to work with on a regular basis. For Jenny, who helps bring order to the chaos, and graciously greets everyone who walks through door with a smile. For Phyllis and everyone else who helps to set the stage in our worship services for the Holy Spirit to show up and move in our midst. For the musicians in our church who help to coax melodies and harmony out of this disparate group of worshipers that we call our church.
I found myself grateful for the people in our congregation who find themselves in positions of leadership, humbly organizing the efforts of our congregation into practical steps forward. For the people who have nurtured generations of young people whether in the nursery, in Sunday School, Youth Group, or simply by investing in their lives in a meaningful way. For the people who wash dishes or set up sound systems or tables, for those who lend a hand in tasks that rarely get recognized for how important they really are.
I found myself grateful for the young people in our congregation, who are a reflection of the life and exuberance of the Holy Spirit. I found myself grateful for oldest members of our congregation whose memories and experiences are a treasure that should never be taken for granted. For everyone in between who are in the midst of life, for the impact on the world that they have every day. In that moment I found myself thankful for all of these kinds of people in the church and so many more that have gone unnamed.
I was thankful for the goodness that shines through the people that I know. And, in the moment, to some degree, I was even thankful for the difficult and dark moments in my life. I found myself thankful for some of the painful moments in my life because they have caused me to see others that I have ignored in the past. They have increased my compassion for those who are suffering. I found myself thankful for some of the conflicts in past years because they have taught me things about who I am and what it means to actually reconcile and not simply walk away. I even found myself thankful for people and things that I have lost, because they have made me more aware of and attentive to that which is present in my life today.
In that moment walking in the hallway I was thankful for the grace of God. That the mistakes that I have made in the past, and even the mistakes I will make in the future, are not the things that wind up defining me in the eyes of God. I was thankful that the presence of Jesus felt real that day, that I didn’t feel alone.
As we look to the month of November and to the upcoming holiday of Thanksgiving, I simply want to say that there are many reasons to be thankful for what God is doing in our congregation and in our lives. Is everything easy? No. Do we have work to do as a congregation? Yes. Are there things that are incredibly painful in our individual lives and in our world? Of course. I don’t want to minimize any of those things. But I do want us to remember that there are many, many things to be thankful for and that they should be celebrated. Let us never forget to say, “Thanks be to God.”
Each month for our newsletter Pastor Alan writes a short article on a variety of topics. At times he will also create a video version of the article.