“It’s so nice to see your smile.”
I stopped and turned back to greet a senior man in our church lobby. He continued, “I remember when you used to smile at me but it was such a forced smile.”
That season of searing jaw pain and a grin-and-bear-it commitment (before dashing out the side door of the sanctuary) flooded back all too easily. “Yes,” I replied, “I’m thankful those days are over,” to which he responded, “You look fifteen years younger now!”
“Even with all my gray hair?” I jested.
“Oh, that’s a sign of wisdom,” he concluded.
I love that man.
And not just because of this exchange. Mr. B., who I hardly knew five years ago, has diligently prayed for me throughout the pain years, during surgery time and all through my recovery and rehabilitation. He routinely asks me how I’m doing and expresses genuine interest in my well-being. He is a gift.
Our interaction last Sunday set me thinking about everything I am grateful for, how quickly life moves on, and the fading memory of God ‘s immense doing. As a writer, I am thankful to have documented my “stones of remembrance” through journal entries and articles, including one I recently bumped into titled “The Hard Work of Gratitude” for the MB Herald. I wrote:
But we don’t just absorb the disappointment into our psyche and have it disappear into nowhere. Like sponges, we suck up the despair, losses, feeling of being short-changed, and eventually reach a saturation point where we start to drip. Another disappointment hits and becomes like giant hands twisting our sponge, until every drop of inner moisture is squeezed out. And there we sit, crusty, brittle, inflexible, dried up.
Unless, by God’s grace, we opt for something different. Gratitude, I believe, is a spiritual discipline developed over time, honed in each individual moment when we choose between grumbling and thankfulness.
I still have enough ongoing muscle issues to draw attention to my physical being. My stiff sternocleidomastoids and tight trapezius remind me of pain I no longer live with, and for that I give thanks.
But now that life is less hard and windows of opportunity are opening I wonder if I’m as grateful. Am I daily choosing to look for reasons to rejoice or am I coasting on past awareness? Do I intentionally ask God for eyes to see His presence and provisions? Will I take time to say thank you for blessings large and small? Does the spiritual discipline of choosing gratitude continue to grow?
And as I ponder these questions I am reassured. God is faithful to remind me of the attitude He desires, one of giving thanks in all circumstances. This time he used a 78-year-old friend and an old article I wrote. Makes me smile.
With love and gratitude,
In The Midst