By Doug Talley
I’m wired to see problems and to anticipate what could go wrong. I would call it being a realist or thinking ahead, but someone extremely close to me says that I can be a pessimist. Maybe. God has certainly wired us all a little differently, and I am thankful for that. Imagine how boring life would be if everyone was the same – if all people were exactly like me…or you.
Since I am wired as a critical thinker, periodically I need to step back and reflect on what I am thankful for. It helps me keep perspective. It also reminds me that even during the midst of a pandemic or whatever stressful crisis is occurring, there is a LOT to be thankful for.
I am thankful for:
- the diversity and variety of God’s creation. Some people love the mountains, but I am a beach person. Perhaps the best beaches are those with mountains in the immediate background. I love warm weather, but I think my favorite season is fall. I find reading about the depths of the oceans and outer space fascinating. While it may take less energy for me to be around people just like me, people who are racially, culturally, geographically, and even politically different from me add enriching dimensions to my life. And they remind me that I need to try to walk in their shoes…see things from a different perspective.
- people who run to the fire. While I’m talking a bit metaphorically, I do appreciate people who literally run towards literal fires, and also those who run towards danger to help. Most people are wired to avoid danger and run the other way. But God has blessed some with a disposition that thrives amidst risk and danger. They so want to help and make a difference that they meet it head on.
- people who have experienced failure, a harsh set back, or made a really bad mistake and rise above it, allowing God to infuse His grace into their lives. They use their failure to bless others. It seems the natural human response to messing up big time is to wallow in self-pity and hide. Kind of like Adam and Eve did in the garden. But some people refuse to give into failure. Instead, they overcome great odds and personal anxiety as they show that God can use our worst failures to further His purposes and bring life to others.
- people who extend grace. Remember, I am wired to be a critical thinker. Grace almost seems like weakness to people wired like me. Our human nature (probably the sinful part of it) says people who fail should have been paying more attention. And that might be true. But people aren’t perfect. Your failures might not be colossal, but any imperfect moment means we all need grace. The truth is – we all need LOTS of grace. Even those of us who cherish holiness. Actually, we probably need it more.
- people who pour their lives into others. Human nature says I should watch out for me and think first and foremost about me. That’s more what narcissists do. Jesus, instead, modeled humility as a powerful force that can change the world. Remember Philippians 2? As I look back over my life, there have been so many people who have poured into me rather than focused on themselves. I am a better person because of them. They saw potential in me that I wasn’t aware of, and they coaxed it out. And some of them saw blind spots and growth areas in me that I wasn’t aware of. They spoke loving truth and grace into my life.
- people who invest themselves in making the world a better place to live. While many of us have been complaining about mask mandates, COVID protocols, supply chain disruptions, and a lack of Diet Dr. Pepper Cherry (OK, this is me.), others have been risking their own health to teach their students, treating patients even though it may expose them to a disease that could kill them, sacrificing sleep and personal time to develop a vaccine that a portion of the population will never accept, providing food and essential resources to people most affected by an economy kicked in the gut by COVID, and __________. You can fill in that last blank.
- pastors and church staffs who have poured themselves out selflessly and adapted time and time again in order to share with others the incredible story of new life and hope offered by Jesus Christ! That is the majority of people who will read this monthly post/blog. You’ve continued to love, serve, and invest in others even though you were feeling like you were in over your head, uncertain, drained, overworked, spiritually taxed, and probably underappreciated. You’ve faced extremes in attitudes that haven’t always been expressed in a Christ-honoring way. You’ve supported people with COVID, and families who have lost loved ones to COVID. You’ve loved angry people who attend your church who didn’t think the church was handling the pandemic the right way. You’ve cared about people in your church even though they left angry…or just left without any explanation.
As I review the above list, I realize almost all of what I am thankful for right now relates to people. That makes me smile. The older I get, the more I realize life, thankfulness, and fulfillment are not about tangible things but people. Someone has said after reading the early chapters of Genesis that God saved his best creation for last. We aren’t perfect. But we are made in God’s image. And He believes in us and loves us.
This November take a few moments to identify what you are especially thankful for this season.