I’m a little late on this, but over on “Et Tu?” Jen encouraged people to stop dwelling on their failures of the past year by asking the question, “What did you do right in 2007?”
Obviously, I didn’t stop procrastinating, because the post is about three weeks old. But I wanted to get in on the discussion, because I did do one thing really right last year: I opened my eyes.
I’ve always considered myself a pretty thankful person. I knew I had been given a lot and God had been good to me. But I was only aware of my blessings as you’re aware of a ringing phone in a dream–it’s there, but intangible; it rests in another plane of existence. So, you can only lie there and listen to it ring.
I thought that was the way it was supposed to be. I never put the thought into words, but I believed (and I acted as though I believed) that blessings were a kind of insulation. Being blessed meant that God put some padding between you and the world, so that you didn’t have to deal with its rough edges.
Over the past year, I’ve discovered how wrong that is. My family and I haven’t been insulated from anything, and I’ve never felt God’s presence more strongly. It turns out that that hard, scary world is God’s, and all those selfish, feeble people in it are His too. As far as we may be fallen from Him, we’re still the conduit He uses to deliver His love.
When my mom died, our friends and family reacted as is traditional in the South: by bringing us lots of food and hanging around the house. That was wonderful enough; at that time, any amount of kindness or comfort that anyone could offer, even if it was just their presence, was precious. But one thing I’ll never forget is one of my dad’s friends, and how he noticed that all the visitors bringing buckets of fried chicken had helped us to accumulate a lot of garbage, and how he loaded it all onto his pickup and hauled it off for us, so we wouldn’t have to put up with it until the garbage truck came later in the week.
It’s a small thing, something you normally wouldn’t consider a great blessing. But the blessing came from the fact that this friend was in the mix with us, up close. The death of a loved one is one of those rough edges that you thank God for keeping away from you. But our friend didn’t try to keep us at arm’s length. The only reason he noticed our need, our small need, was because he was close enough to see it, close enough to let God work through him.
Even in my ignorance, God was still good to me. But I never thought about embracing his creation; I only thought of protecting myself from it. How silly. I hope that now I can keep my eyes open, so that I can see the full extent of God’s generosity. And I hope I can carry some of that generosity out to others.