Thursday, September 12, 2013

Why "The Good List"?

Why "The Good List"?

Many have asked me this question, and I'm pretty sure I've answered it a little differently each time -- all honest answers, but this process has taken on new meanings throughout the years.

I first started these lists about 8 or 9 years ago in the midst of a very dark season of my life, the details of which are no longer important. What *is* important is that Jesus rescued me. What he did not do immediately, however, was to remove me from some of the difficult situations I was facing each day. Storms raged on pretty much daily (or at least every "work" day), and God didn't seem much interested in calming any of them. . . except for the one within me. Which -- let's be honest here -- was every bit as much a miracle as walking on water. 

Clearly I was incapable of changing my own heart and mind. I had tried for years to no avail. And I'm not sure even now that I can pinpoint *exactly* what changed or why except to say that Christ intervened. Powerfully. I had wallowed in self-pitying-why-me-this-is-so-unfair-how-can-they-keep-getting-away-with-treating-me-this-way garbage for so long that entitlement mentality had attached itself to me as securely as my very skin. I went nowhere without it. To be clear, it is still my very firm opinion that I *was* being mistreated and sinned against all those years ago, but the magnifying glass I held to the sins against me was firmly and exclusively fixed on just that. Sins against me. I had no vision of anything else. Not my own sins and the grace Christ had so freely lavished upon me in spite of them. Not the blessings I enjoyed every single day. Not the hope I had in eternity. 

Until. . .

Jesus. OH! JESUS! All I can say is that he crashed into me and changed the subject. Again -- not the circumstances. They remained the same for several years following this awakening in me, but my perspective changed dramatically. Mostly. Hence "The Good List". Practicing thankfulness. Opening my eyes to blessings that had never been absent from my life, only ignored. Changing my focus from, "Why me? Why do I continue to deal with this? So unfair!" to "Why not me? Why didn't I wake up with cancer this morning? Praise God!" Imperfectly, for sure, but deliberately. I decided that it would be my goal to actively seek and identify blessings every single day. One for each week day and 2 each on Saturday and Sunday. These could be as silly and small as a really good meal or something that made me giggle. (Or Nutella. I decided it would be fair to list Nutella every week if necessary. ;-)) That made a list of 9. Number 10 would be something a bit more significant. An exquisite passage of Scripture that had spoken to me recently. A truth that God was revealing to me. A story of redemption. Something along those lines. A list of 10 each week. After several years, I've listed a few thousand by now, but the more I list, the more I realize I could never stop writing (or typing as it were), and I still wouldn't cover the tiniest fraction of blessings. That's ok. It's not a test to complete. It's a never-ending exercise in thankfulness.

And after 8 or 9 years of doing this, today my answer to the above question is this:

Why "The Good List"?

For such a time as this.

Because just in the last 2-3 weeks. . .

. . . I listened as Jared read Scripture to our friend Richard, whose brain cancer appears to be in its final stages. He paused occasionally to explain, not because Richard isn't smart, but because. . . .  well, brain cancer. Taking over. I love that Richard closed his eyes during the parts that talked about eternal life with Christ. Never *really* dying. A whole, holy, healthy body forever. Glorious. Meanwhile, Judah, who is 3, said to us, "My Dad talks weird." My flesh raged (UNFAIR!!!), and my heart plummeted. Help him, Jesus!

. . . I visited a beautiful, precious friend in the hospital the day before and then again the day after doctors removed a golf-ball sized tumor from her brain. She still awaits the full pathology report, but the word "aggressive" haunts me. Help her, Jesus!

. . . I dialogued with a friend who began experiencing fainting spells several weeks ago at the exact same time her husband fell from a ladder and shattered his leg. They have been recovering, only to face recent repeat ER visits with her Dad over the last couple weeks with bleeding in his brain. Doctors tried, but their treatments were not as effective as they hoped. His final earthly breath happened late Tuesday night. They are weary. Help them, Jesus!

The list continues. Illness, depression, broken relationships, wayward children, financial stress, difficult job situations. It's a long list. All within a very small community. 

These days have been hard. Scary. Exhausting. Confusing. Frustrating. Demanding.

I might as well admit I'm not waking up with a song in my heart or a dance in my pants as often as I sometimes do. My heart isn't light. What to do with this mess? Where could I go but to Jesus? And why? Because my natural setting is to "look on the bright side", be cheerful, and trust that everything will be fine if I just "let go, and let God"?

Oh my, no. Quite the opposite, actually. Because I'm weak and weary and worn and mostly pretty worthless in regard to my impact on any of these situations. But I've practiced recognizing God's blessings. I've rehearsed gratitude for his never failing goodnesses to me. I've searched for and listed (just a few) of the endless ways he loves me. And I have just enough "muscle memory" at this exercise to send me fleeing to the cross when trouble comes. Because I remember. My stubborn heart of flesh is being slowly conditioned to know how to respond to suffering. With gratitude. Gratitude for the days and weeks and sometimes months at a time when the suffering isn't so prevalent. Even gratitude for understanding the many ways Christ works through suffering. But by no means does this come naturally. It takes practice. Exercise. Consistent, deliberate work. Repetition.

So why "The Good List"?

So I'll remember.

Because where else could I go to find hope and peace and comfort? Only to Jesus. There is no true good but HIM.


Linda said...

Thank you for sharing this. I needed to hear the "why" behind the lists of yours that I enjoy reading. Also, I needed to see that I, too, need to find the good in my life when sometimes the hard stuff overwhelms.

Becky said...

I like this a lot and just may borrow your idea!

Unknown said...

Thank you, Becky. My heart needed to hear this tonight.