I’m home today for the first time this week. In a week of busyness, of work and holidays and the remnants of Christmas cheer blending into blizzards and the starting of a new year, last night I slept in my own bed for the first time since Monday and felt the overwhelming relief of home.
I slept on a couch in the cold sanctuary of our church on Monday. Slept being a very generous way of phrasing it. I flipped from side to side, tucked as much blanket as I could beneath myself to keep the chill from getting to be too much, listened with mother’s ears for every shifting child, spread out across the room, hoped that they didn’t fall from their air mattresses or down from the church chairs. I closed my eyes. I opened my eyes. Again and again.
It was there, at around three in the morning (because all clarity comes at the three AM of the soul, does it not?) I had the revelation of just how miserable I was – in that moment – but how it is just a once every few months misery for me. And it’s a choice at that.
But for many people, this is their life. Packing up their belongings, moving from church to church, sleeping on hard floors with air mattresses, with children to tuck in and nightly routines that can never really be established, with toothbrushes and toothpaste in Ziploc bags or travel cases. They have no space of their own, and it’s not always a choice.
And for so many more people in this world, having a couch to lay down on, in a dry, sixty-five degree room, with access to running water and clean, working restrooms – would be an amazing blessing.
My attitude of misery could so easily be an attitude of gratitude, of blessing.
Oh, what a blessing, I’ll say. I’m so blessed.
My husband, my healthy children, my warm house, my running vehicles, my busy business. Me, me, me. Blessed, blessed, blessed.
The absurdity of it all came to me while standing at my stove, stirring something, and giving thanks for something that was completely mundane. Completely not a blessing, but a convenience. It was chicken, rotisserie chicken. Thank you, God, for the store being opened so that we could buy rotisserie chicken (and so that I didn’t have to take the time to de-bone and remove the skin from the pounds of chicken I have sitting in my fridge, purchased when I foolishly imagined more time in my life for such things.)
But, what would I say, if I were ever in the position of Vinnie dying, of our house burning to the ground, of losing everything? Would I still claim blessing in my life, when I have nothing? I like to believe that I would – but, it would require the acknowledgement that things are not always blessings. It would require the acknowledgement that to be blessed does not always mean to be comfortable, safe or even terribly happy here on earth.
To be clear, I do believe in blessing, in the favor of God in our lives, in a very Biblical, literal way. I do.
And, maybe it’s just my softened, Americanized (everything, everyone, must be treated equally, the same) heart, but I both praise God for the blessings I acknowledge in my own life, but then look to my right and my left and wonder, but what about her? What about them? Where is the favor for the child who – through not fault of his or her own – is sleeping on air mattresses in church Sunday School rooms, or moving from shelter to shelter, or worse?
What of the families sleeping in spaces smaller than my bedroom, families as big as mine, or bigger, sleeping and defecating in the same small, hot space?
And what of the Godly women and men, who are faithful and resolute, but who lose their spouses. What of cancer? What of car accidents? What of all of the things in this world that seem to be anti-blessings? What of the single mothers and fathers who now have no one to hold their hands when parenting is brutal, no one to come in and take over for just a moment so that they can have the time they need to recover, to feel blessed.
Is it fair to say that my healthy, loyal and still-alive-to-stand-beside-me husband is a blessing, given to me out of favor for anything that I’ve done myself, while there brothers and sisters in Christ, who more than likely, are more deserving of such favor, stand alone?
And this, this is the moment where I struggle, like a child on her father’s lap, asking the round-eyed, little voice lilting like Cindi Lou Hoo, question – but why?
I’m not asking why bad things happen. Fallen world, imperfection waiting to be made new, all that. I can see a larger picture, that this life is temporary and any struggles and sadnesses will be forgotten, that treasures are in heaven and misery on earth is but a blink, a sneeze, a turning of the head.
I guess, I’m wondering about the Job characters, the people who feel as though they are running a close second to the character Biblical devastation, of a life turned into ruin, but still they are faithful. Are they not still blessed, even if not with flat screen TVs and savings accounts that sit there and wait for kids to go to college?
And, here, it occurs to me, what I already knew before I started to type a letter.
The Bible is a book of humanity, of suffering and hurt, of murder, of sickness, of poor life choices lived out by flawed characters. Even those, especially those, who set their eyes on the world beyond, gave all based on the promises of their faith, even those few were not “blessed” in this life. And still, they believed. And still, they gave thanks.
To have a heart that sees the blessings above the disasters, to have the peace of Christ in the midst of the storms – perhaps this is the blessing.
Finding a parking spot close to Target on the weekend before Christmas – this is a convenience. Being able to acknowledge God, honor God, give God praise, even for the little things – this is the blessing.
To have nothing, to have no one, but to still have a heart that will give God praise, this is a blessing.
Grocery stores that have rotisserie chicken are a convenience. But still, the fact that we have money in our pockets, legs that are not paralyzed, cars that can drive us, hands that can use the chicken to prepare the meal, these are all worthy of giving thanks.
And I will, every time.
(And then, really, who is to say that a convenience can’t be a blessing too?)