"The difference between shallow happiness and a deep sustaining joy is sorrow. Happiness lives where sorrow is not. When sorrow arrives, happiness dies. It can't stand pain. Joy, on the other hand, rises from sorrow and therefore can withstand all grief. Joy, by the grace of God, is the transfiguration of suffering into endurance, and of endurance into character, and of character into hope--and the hope that has become our joy does not (as happiness must for those who depend upon it) disappoint us." Walter Wangrin, Reliving the Passion
After recording 1000 gifts, Ann reflects on the realization that she has a journal full of blessings, but as she has awaken to the joy of God's presence/grace/gifts, she has also awaken to the reality that awakening to joy also awakens her to pain.
"...life is loss...WHAT will I lose? Health? Comfort? Hope? Eventually, I am guaranteed to lose every earthly thing I have ever possessed. WHEN will I lose? Today? In a few weeks? How much time have I got before the next loss? WHO will I lose? And that's a definite: I will lose every single person I have ever loved. Ether abruptly or eventually...Every step I take forward in my life is a loss of something in my life and I live the waiting." (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 84)Deep thoughts.
Thoughts that I often try to avoid.
In a world of certain loss, then the question comes, "What is 'grace'?"
By naming "blessings", "gifts"...."God Winks" I am striving to be more aware of God in my life. But, notice the words... "blessings" and "gifts"..... If I name these moments as gifts and blessings, what are the moments of pain, of suffering?
How do you know how to sift through a day, a life, and rightly read the graces, rightly ascertain the curses? (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 85)Like me, Ann asks what is good, what counts as grace, what is the heart of God?
When Job lost everything, he assumed that God had either turned his back on him or was unfairly punishing him.
Do I believe in a God who rouses Himself just now and then to spill a bit of benevolence on hemorrhaging humanity? A God who breaks through teh carapace of this orb only now and then, surprises us with a spared hand, a reprieve from sickness, a good job and a nice house in the burbs - and then finds Himself again too impotent to deal with all I see as suffering and evil A God of sporadic, random, splattering goodness - that now and then splatters across a gratitude journal? (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 85)Like Job, Ann draws herself up and asks a hard question.
What are all the moments that I don't list as "gifts", as "blessings"?
What of these moments?
God, it is difficult, this waiting...waiting when I see such darkness within such brightness. Give me courage during this season of Advent to hold both the joy and the pain that is life and to see You. Through the power of your Spirit, may my happiness be transformed into your Joy. AMEN.
Many Blessings ~ Sandi