Monday, January 21, 2013

The Hard and Dirty Eucharisteo: Part 3 of 3

It was good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes. 
Psalm 119:71

     You wake up and realize your alarm didn’t go off. Now you’re late for work. As you butter your toast, the bread slips from your hands and lands butter-side-down on the floor. You jump into the car, and the gas meter dings empty. The pump won’t take your credit card. When you zip onto the highway, your coffee spills. Road construction slows you down. And then the vending machine won’t give you your soda after you put your money in, and the change-back button is broken.
     Sounds like a comedy show or comic strip, doesn’t it? Something we read and laugh at. I must admit, I smiled while writing it. But when those incidents occur in our own lives, do we laugh then? How do we respond when we meet trials of various kinds? How should we respond? How do we deal with the hard and dirty eucharisteo? (Reminder: eucharisteo means giving thanks, comprised of the words “grace” and “joy.” This is explained more in depth in my previous article: Learning Eucharisteo.)

     Before we can count it all joy, we must realize “The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble” (Proverbs 16:4, ESV). God may bring hardships to prove a point, to bring us closer to Him, to let us be an example of Christianity when others are watching, to test us (like Job), to protect us, a combination of all of the above, or for some other reason we finite beings are unaware of at the time.
     Perhaps you were acting proud that morning when the pump wouldn’t accept your credit card, so God taught you a little humility lesson in the form of a broken pump. Perhaps He broke the pump to send you inside the station, because a thug was looking around the pumps to find someone to mug. Perhaps He sent you inside to smile at the cashier who was having a bad day. Perhaps I’m beginning too many sentences with the word “perhaps,” or perhaps I’m not, because we don’t always know why God does things.
     If we are self-absorbed, focusing on how this (really trivial) trail hurts us or offends us, we can’t give thanks to God who gave us the tribulation for a reason. If we’re too stressed, we scowl instead of smile at the cashier, blowing our opportunity to give a blessing.
     Jean-Pierre de Caussade, a Jesuit priest, put it well: “You would be very ashamed if you know what the experiences you call setbacks, upheavals, pointless disturbances, and tedious annoyances . . . are nothing more nor less than blasphemies. . . Nothing happens to you except by the will of God, and yet [God’s] beloved children curse it because they do not know it for what it is.”  We blaspheme when we don’t accept and thank God for our hardships. Once we recognize and acknowledge God’s hand in everything, we can “count it all joy . . . when we meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2, ESV, emphasis added).

     So instead of exclaiming and slamming your hand on the steering wheel when the gas meter dings empty, which shows anger towards God for putting you in this situation, thank God for this little trial which strengthens your faith in Him. Thank Him for giving you the opportunity to spend time with Him while you wait for the tank to fill up. Thank Him you don’t have to physically pump the gas yourself. Thank Him you have a job to pay for the gas. Thank Him that the car tells you when it’s empty instead of dying in the middle of the road. Thank Him that you have a car! Don’t nitpick the hardships like the Israelites in the wilderness; find the blessings—even the dirty blessings—showered around you.
     Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts, describes handling the hard eucharisteo—her sons’ quarrelling—this way, “‘Father, I thank You for these two sons. Thank You for here and now. Thank You that You don’t leave us in our mess . . . Thank You for cross-grace for this anger, for the hope of forgiveness and brothers and new mercies.’” We need to “look for the ugly beautiful, count it as grace, transfigure the mess into joy with thanks,” and eucharisteo really comes to life.
     Of course, this does not come naturally. You have to make a conscious effort to give thanks in all circumstances. You have to encounter many various trials to perfect eucharisteo.

     As I mentioned in my previous article, my life became busier and I gave up my eucharisteo for a stressful life. But then I missed my joy; I missed finding happiness in the little things. So I creased a fresh piece of paper and began again.
     However, one night I forgot to remove my list from my pocket, and the paper full of blessings met its doom in the laundry. As I cradled the wrinkled shreds in my hands, I wondered why God would do this: my list was for Him! But I realized this could be—was—a test, a trial to test my faith in Him. So I accepted the test for what it was: God-given and for a purpose, and I thanked Him. And I realized—He told me—I wasn’t doing my list for Him. I wanted to feel joy for me. And this was His purpose in destroying my list: it was a selfish gift list, not a eucharisteo gift list.
     I confess, even after that test, I slacked in thanking God for the little things. When I volunteered to write on gratefulness for The Though Box, I was convicted of my laziness and my hypocrisy. After writing these three articles, my gift list has become ever more creased and smudged.
     It won’t be easy. Trails will come. But we can count them all joy—we can laugh at them—see the grace in the trials, thank God for them, and draw closer to Him. For thanksgiving comes before the miracle, the miracle of experiencing God’s joy: eucharisteo.


Note: Haiku and Haron discuss some of the aspects I touched on in their own articles, “Why Bad Things Happen” and “Preparing for Hardships.”

Source: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

Image by Klipsie

1 comment:

  1. This is a great post, Klipsie. :) It was something I really needed to hear right now- thank you so much! :D