We’re getting ready for the holiday tomorrow, and I am – of course – thankful. Maybe you’re like me and in thinking about Thanksgiving, you blow quickly by the “things” you’re thankful for and dwell on the “people”… and for me, there are many, many people for whom I’m thankful.
Beyond the Lord Himself, where would I start? I could tell you about my impossibly great, beautiful, best-friend, love-of-my-life wife. I could tell you about each of my kids – each one so different, and such an incredible joy. I could tell you about my family members (who all mean so much to me), friends (who I don’t deserve), neighbors and community. I could tell you about people who, from public ministry of the Word through preaching or writing have been a tremendous encouragement to me.
I don’t know. Each one deserves my full attention, and words are definitely inadequate to say how grateful I am. I wish I could tell you about each one of these people. But let me tell you now about just one.
She was raised in difficult circumstances, a child of the depression and daughter of an immigrant. Even though she moved around when she was young, she made big impressions on people… like the world-class author/theologian in her neighborhood. He’s trendy now, but when she was little, he was just her pastor and she wormed her way into his introverted heart, treated almost like his own family. Like many in her day, she was also thrust early in life into responsibility, a character trait that has followed her all of her life. After an early and painful disappointment in a relationship, she met the love of her life as a young woman. Running hard against popular convention, the two of them set off together on a life filled with highs and lows, happiness and pain, successes and – well, ok, some failures too.
Nothing ever seemed to come easy… one step forward, two steps back sometimes. I wasn’t the most discerning observer for much of the time I’ve known her, but while I knew life was hard, I never really “felt” it from her. Her husband was a “faith” guy – I think if there’s a spiritual gift of faith, a Holy Spirit given ability to believe God to an unusual degree, he had that. But she lived it! “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Sometimes I thought he even saw the good ahead, the pending calm in the current storm, but she followed out of faith. Even through tears… Not by denying the problem, but living life in spite of the problem.
I watched, I saw. And I learned.
OK, I sound maudlin now! It wasn’t all difficulty. There was happiness, great times, trips, laughter… how much I love hearing her laugh! Even as a very young boy, I remember how much fun it was to wash windows with her on a bright, sunny fall day – it felt to me like the world was right, and good.
She’s got quick wit, the life of the party… that’s her to a tee. She’s an “entertainer” in the fullest and best sense of the word. Hospitality had a face for me… her face. Gracious, welcoming, warm, inviting, and those have been great traits to see in a world that generally has little time for such things. Even today, she thinks of ways to befriend and welcome her neighbors, looking for ways to brighten other people’s lives.
She’s also passionate about life, and principled in her positions on things… appropriately self-confident and strong. Willing to say the tough things, but an example of grace and truth. In our little sub-culture, many are more than a little uncomfortable with the “truth” part of that, but I love the gleam in her eye when she points out the obvious thing that everybody’s thinking, but nobody has the guts to say.
But more than all that, she’s compassionate and generous – almost to a fault. She has always given… words like involved, concerned, charitable, generous… that’s her. She’d literally give away anything she had to meet a need. She’s kind, thoughtful and interested in people personally without being intrusive… always quick to say that she’s praying for you. Your spouse. Your kids. Your job. Your concerns. (You get the picture!) But she actually does pray, just like she says. This isn’t the posting for a rant on the current state of the evangelical movement, but just to say it, we could stand more of that.
Today, her life is slower than it used to be. Lonelier than it used to be… her husband is gone, her kids are busy, busy, busy. Life has thrown some very hard knocks her way. But in my eyes, she’s still very much the young girl in her 20’s with a life full of promise. The best really is yet to come… and I still see the hope in her eyes as she follows our Lord – as she always has.
Difficulty, extra responsibility, challenge… they’ve always been a part of her life. But for people like me, she’s modeled success and victory. She’s shown me what Paul meant when he said “… we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)
No wonder a life like that shows “the surpassing power that belongs to God and not to us” (vs. 7).
So today, like everyday, I’m thankful. I’m thankful for a woman who has been such a godly model to me, such an encouragement to me, such an example to me. Hopefully when I grow up, I’ll model her best traits as well.
I’m thankful for my Mom.