Friday, November 27, 2009
"Father, I accept it. Thank you. Thank you for taking my son. I know he was suffering. I accept it Father. Thank you."
Today is Thanksgiving, and these were the very first words of gratitude that I heard. They came from my neighbor Lisbeth, between sobs of anguish. Her 15 month old son, her only son, died this morning after a two month battle with dysentery. We'd been to the hospital three times in the last two weeks. Twice for an IV. We'd been to the pharmacy for loads of medications... but he couldn't eat anymore and this morning he's gone. And she's giving thanks. Numerous people had been in their house to pray for him... we cry out to a God who can raise people from the dead, right? But in the end, there is still death in the world, and who's to blame? So many accusations to be made between her and her young husband. She should have taken him to the hospital sooner, she shouldn't have taken him to a curandero (or witch doctor), he should have worked harder so they would have had better medicine, ... I should have gone over this morning instead of doing my quiet time - didn't I think about it? The family should have been more supportive... but all of this is meaningless now, and does nothing to help those who are suffering. And she gives thanks to God.
My heart breaks for them, and I am confronted by my endless ability to be self-centered, self-pitying, lamenting the loss of "things" that pale in comparison with the value of a human life. Yesterday I was sure that my camera had been taken from the house. Two weeks ago, something else of sentimental and physical value had disappeared, and yesterday I was saddened all day to think that someone I trust had probably taken my camera too - right from my house. Turns out it was in a pocket of my backpack where Isaí had returned it without my knowledge... but I spent the day heavy-hearted, grieving its loss. "In everything ....give thanks," says the word in Philippians 4. Did I think to thank God in the midst of my worry? Not to the extent that Lisbeth did this morning. I was resigned and thinking to look for ways to be grateful to God - but still too miserable to actually do so.
So much of what we have isn't "ours." Ok, so everything we have isn't "ours." Not ours to hang on to as a right at least. Not my camera. Not my friendships. Not my space or my time. Not sons or daughters, husbands, wives, houses, jobs... not even my life. But holding things loosely and letting go isn't effortless - and with gratitude at that. So this morning I think of all the things, friends and loved ones that I have - and I am grateful. And I think of all the things I feel I'm lacking, things God hasn't chosen to set before me yet, ...and I choose gratitude. My neighbors with five young kids to my right eat once a day (no breakfast, no supper - just lunch, sometimes not until 4 in the afternoon). The neighbors to my left live the same way most days - a widowed grandmother raising three young grandkids, with two sons still in the house (not the fathers of the grandkids). And they are grateful. What on earth am I trying to hang on to?
Across the street, little Jair Jafeth is wrapped in white, laying on a table with four candles on each corner. Back in the states today I know millions are eating well, maybe even too well, surrounded by a good family, good hospitals, and clean water. But I also know that even in the states there are those who don't have one or more of those things. I find my peace today in the knowledge that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. And the promise that "I am my beloved's and He is mine," (SOS 2:16) runs through my heart. The one "thing" that no power, circumstance or person can take away from me. And I'll probably spend a good part of the day and the night of this Thanksgiving sitting with Lisbeth across the street as is custom here...
What are you grateful for today?