Do you live in thankful awareness of God's constant presence in your life? New England Yearly Meeting, Faith and Practice Query: Spiritual Life
When I look out the window next to my desk at work and the sun is shinning brightly in the sky or when a co-worker stops by just to catch up; I am thankful. Being surrounded by people I love, coming home to the dishes cleaned up out of the sink, giving Ben a kiss; I am thankful.
I am thankful when I am filled with the Holy Spirit in worship and God's words pour out of me. I am thankful when others are vessels of God's words and their ministry touches my heart. I am thankful for a warm cup of coffee on a chilly day; for the food that I have to eat and the house to which I can come home to.
For all these things and more I am truly thankful. I can feel that thanksgiving deep within my heart--it is a kind of heart knowing.
Fear is another kind of heart knowing. Its a kind of fear that resides in my heart that speaks of surrender and release. A knowing that God's presence is often rough and sharp in my life. I know that there have been times when I have been called out of my present state into a newness that is raw; into a growth that hurts; into an unknown that is terrifying.
And in those cases, I forget to be thankful for God's presence. Sometimes I stand in the way of my leadings; sometimes other people stand in the way of my leadings. Sometimes I stand in the way of other people's leadings. What a mess!
Its it possible though, to thankfully surrender to the will of God? Is that faithfulness?
When my supervisor at work tells me that time off for my ministry with Quakers and within the Ecumenical world can not be considered professional development because my work is not specifically within the denomination for which I work, and I burst into tears in response to the follow up question of how I feel I am being treated in my position... am I thankful for God's presence? am I thankful that God moved me to tears as a public witness to my feelings for my job?
Lately, I feel more often embarrassed, angry, or exasperated by God's presence in my life. Its easy to be thankful when things are going well. Its much harder to be thankful for God's presence when the world feels heavy on my shoulders. "Really God?" I ask. "You're giving me what?"
In the 11th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus prays a prayer of thanksgiving followed by his more famous statement: "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)
So often for me, leadings feel like more work, more sacrifice, more burden. Jesus' words have come up for me over and over these past few months, as I've wondered "Does it have to be this hard?" "What am I doing wrong?"
Yet God has ways of bursting through my exhaustion; whether its through someone at meeting inviting me to have coffee with her out of the blue--or having a friend over to watch a movie and ending up talking about God for four hours. In those moments, I find rest. The yoke does not feel easy right now and the burden is quite heavy, but God is finding small ways to give me rest. For that I am thankful.
While I'm constantly aware of God's presence in my life, I have some more work to do feeling thankful for it more often. Perhaps that work will lead to an easier, lighter carrying of the call, but for the time being I start but simply saying "Thank you."