How God Works In Us During Times When We Can’t Muster Gratitude

DUODUOMOLLIE / FLICKR
DUODUOMOLLIE / FLICKR

We’d been home for months when this curious stranger approached me with eyes full of questions. “Where are they from?” and “Are they siblings?” and “Are they all yours?” stumbled out of her mouth. I was trying to shield little ears from hearing when she looked at my daughter and said, “Sweetheart, you must be so thankful to have a mommy like this. You sure are lucky.”

I cringed, hoping my little girl didn’t hear. Sure, she’d been adopted. We flew halfway around the world to get her. To this innocent bystander, my daughter had a bed and a doll and cute boots and a headband and could expect a meal every 3 hours. She was getting an education and could take a shower every day. She was “lucky.” Why shouldn’t she be thankful?

For many years before that bed and doll and those warm showers, my little girl went to sleep every night afraid. No one had told her the boogie-man wasn’t real. She didn’t even have a last name. The intersection of that history and ours came to mean that two strangers with skin that looked and smelled different were telling her to call them “Mommy” and “Daddy.”

Becoming a daughter meant inheriting even more questions, and different from when she was one survivor among many. Did my birth mommy’s nose wrinkle when she smiled, like mine does? Would she sing while she cooked? Did she talk to God? During these early days, thankfulness would have been an extension of luck. Airy. Light. Here today, gone tomorrow. Mere optimism, with no weight.

This woman’s well-intentioned mention of thankfulness spoke to the way we can so often short-circuit the long and painstaking work of God towards the darkest parts of our story. Thankfulness may one day come from my daughter in relation to her adoption, but she likely will need to have a brush with God—a long conversation, maybe even over years—around the pieces of her past over which she can’t give hurried praise.

There is an awkward tension that can arise, as we realize the power of speaking our gratitude towards God (despite whether or not we feel it), while yet not being able to ignore those few deeply painful parts of our story which quick praise seems only to placate.

I remember dark times of my life from which I struggled to praise him, when I couldn’t force thankfulness. Well, I could; I tried, but something within me told me that if I did I might miss what’s buried underneath.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Sara Hagerty

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