ow can we sing a song of gratitude on Friday, January 20th, 2017?
How can our souls bless the Lord when we are standing on the edge of something so dark, so unknown, so dangerous to people we love, something crude and crass and selfish and small but with seemingly unlimited capacity to hurt millions of people, our neighbors, our friends, ourselves.
God, how do I give thanks today. Lord God have mercy, but my soul has no space in her closets for gratitude – she is already full, her house is packed with anger, fear, helplessness, isolation, sorrow, rage, guilt. There is no room. She can’t breathe as it is.
And so I took Rumi’s advice, and instead of packing another thing into my soul’s cluttered space, already suffocating with half-packed boxes spilling their contents out on dusty floors – I stepped inside. I walked through. Instead of throwing boxes out, or hiding them in the basement, I am unpacking. I am finding shelf space for my rage, and a desk to set my sorrow on, and I am putting tacks in the wall to hang my guilt and complicity on. Nothing gets thrown away. No emotion stays unredeemed.
1) Anger. Thank you, God, for the gift of anger. Thank you that it can point me towards injustice against humans made in Your image. Please sanctify my anger so that it energizes me against what is cruel and dehumanizing, but I never use it to be cruel or dehumanizing to those around me.
2) Fear. Thank you, God, for the gift of fear. Thank you that it alerts me when I’m in danger so that I can move to safety. Please baptize my fear so that it doesn’t just draw me inward, defenses up to protect myself, but that I let it draw me outwards to empathy, so that I can help protect others who are afraid.
3) Heartbreak. Thank you, God, for the gift of heartbreak. Thank you that my heart breaks, and isn’t scabbed over with a tired cynicism that isn’t surprised or sad about evil anymore. When I try to set my tent in heartbreak, though, guide me back on the path so that I take my heartbreak with me towards justice.
4) Confusion. Thank you, God, for the gift of confusion. Thank you for the reminder that I don’t know what I’m doing, that I am not all-knowing, and that I desperately need other voices from different places, cultures, races, backgrounds, ages, to come alongside me and be my guides and mentors and challengers. May my confusion open up to curiosity, and not become an excuse to never speak at all.
5) Feeling helpless. Thank you, God, for the gift of feeling helpless. Thank you for the invitation it whispers to relentlessly come to you in prayer for my country, for my church, for my city, for my neighbors. Turn my helplessness into a rich trust – and keep my trust from becoming platitudes or cliches used to silence the sorrow of the Other.
6) Guilt. Thank you, God, for the gift of guilt. Thank you for sensitivity to individual and corporate sin, the pebble in the shoe, the splinter in the chair, that keeps me restless and pricks me towards repentance. Shatter the self-indulgent wallowing that begs me to curl up with my guilt and accept it as inevitable – poke me until I, until we, trade it in for repentance and renewal.
7) Despair. Thank you, thank you, God, even for the gift of despair.
And this one doesn’t seem to have any “blessings” with it in the ordinary sense.
Except the blessing of knowing that when we call out “my God, my God, why have you forsaken us?” we do it next to Jesus. When we look over into 2017 and have no idea what will be required of us as the people of God who do justice and love kindness and walk humbly with our God – when we tremble a little at how big it all looks – when it is a Psalm 88 day or year or four years or eight years – when we whisper a prayer that “I am not exactly sure what can even be done, Lord” – we always look, go, tremble, whisper, next to Christ.
So for my sanctified and unsanctified and redeemed and unredeemed emotions – I give thanks.
“When do I give thanks, Mary C?”
“When you’re sorrowful, give thanks.
When you’re angry, give thanks.
When you’re in despair, give thanks.
When you feel helpless, give thanks.”
“How can we sing the songs of Yahweh while in a foreign land?”
Originally published at www.laurajeantruman.com. Reprinted with permission and love.