When I can see my way clear to flicking away the fiery darts that incite grumbling and anxiety, I am given to realize that ultimately, there are two categories of things in life. Regardless of health, material security, political environment, GAP (General Atmospheric Perturbations), or any other variable I might invoke to explain the limits of my fortunes, ultimately, there are only the things for which I am called to be thankful; and there are the things I am called to be thankful are not worse.
Admittedly, I can only aspire to carry this thought into the next room, or into the next minute. If someone had uttered such a thing to me a few years ago, or maybe a few minutes ago, I would have thought he or she to be hopelessly, moronically, Pollyanna-ish. But grace gives us such thoughts, and provides instrumentalities of inspiration, like the circumstance that I just finished reading David Brainerd’s diary, and grace will provide practice time (reps and sets, if necessary), and ultimately lead us home.
Nor am I consistent. I can, in the same breath, call the First Lady “Michelle Antoinette,” and express gratitude that I don’t live in Syria.
I’m not on to anything new here, and I’m in kind of a stumblebumble that should by no means be mistaken for a boast of any sort of insight or achievement. I’m trying to move from simply thinking that things could be worse, into being actively thankful that they are not. I wasn’t really quick to catch on to the difference in the first place.
I’m thin-skinned. It’s a low-cortisol thing, and one of my thoughtful friends actually removes her engagement ring before we shake hands, having once been mortified at lacerating me. It seems almost to be a metaphor of life. I felt lacerated when enraged politicians declared American civil courts too incompetent to try terrorists, because, lashing out at the Anthony verdict, they decided our courts are no longer amenable to convicting the “obviously guilty.” What a stupid, stupid extrapolation to make, and if they would impugn our justice system this way, maybe they should go be politicians in Syria. So I practice. I am thankful I live in a representative republic with a competent judicial system. Things go wrong. Not everyone is competent to lead who was elected to lead. Sometimes applying the law to the evidence presented means human justice will not be served. It is not possible to bring about justice and apply the law correctly and conscientiously, absent substantive evidence, and this is a good thing, a safeguard of liberty. Everything could be so, so very much worse. And we see examples of much worse things in the news every day. It makes me tremulous to think of how horrible complete civil chaos, routine judicial and political torture, or famine by economic incompetence would be. And the worse the possible scenario — which is someone else’s reality — the more thankful I am that it is not upon us, not yet.
But, what excellent learning turf! The world is not my ultimate destination! It doesn’t matter whether or not my country is “better than most,” though I’m incredibly thankful that I think it is. It doesn’t matter what I eat here, or what I do for work. I’m just along for the ride on this whitewater cruise. I’m thankful to be in the raft, and not on the bottom. I’m thankful for my church, where the faithful preaching of the word of God reminds me of these things, week after week, in the company of my fellow forbearers.
And I’m thankful for the sudden inspiration that I don’t need a perfect, quaint, upbeat ending for this vignette.