I’m about to go on a trip of a lifetime and so I’ve had a self-imposed expectation that my minute by minute attitude leading up to this vacation should be one of pure joy and thankfulness. Lately I’ve been learning a lot about the gift of God’s instruction to be thankful. So I’ve been urging myself to get with the program! Two destructive words are in that last sentence: myself and program.
Anyway, I do know that a heart of thankfulness isn’t only for the easy life and pleasures that come our way. And I’m well acquainted with the truth that in this world we will — absolutely, without question, no surprise — have trouble.
Yet, I forget. I forget that the wisdom gained by practicing thankfulness and expecting trouble has drawn me closer to God and further from fear. I forget that thankfulness isn’t a result of perfect clueless bliss. Recognizing trouble isn’t sin. I love what Sarah Young wrote in “Jesus Calling”, “Take a lighthearted view of trouble, see it as a challenge that you and I together can handle.”
You see, as I plan for this trip of a lifetime (that phrase alone raises the expectation bar), my days also include an ankle that’s been giving out on me. I had surgery on this ankle over 7 years ago. I’m not sure why it’s choosing to remind me of that weakness now. But I’ve tried to figure it out and that train of thought has put the blame in my lap. So my mind goes to fear. Fear that I’m responsible for putting a major damper on this trip. A major component of this trip is walking and a bit of hiking. Enter fear; not a lighthearted view of trouble.
Okay, God’s made me aware of where I’m tripping up. And I’m able to see the humor in it! What now?
Time to lift my eyes from my ankle to my Jesus; who walks before me and with me, who holds my hand, who provides trips of a lifetime seeing his creation, who invites me to live in his Presence. I’ve experienced, over and over again, that in His Presence there is joy and peace. A joy that comes out of dependence on Him. A peace that comes from knowing he is trustworthy and brings good out of gifts of ease and gifts of struggle. Thankfulness is a natural response to all that goodness!
Vacations, even so-called trips of a lifetime, are not stepping out of this world into Heaven. They often offer me tastes of Heaven but never the full banquet. I get tastes of Heaven in my everyday living too but vacations offer it on a fancy plate at an unfamiliar table (solid farm tables, small cafe tables, picnic tables). My family will tell you I’ve got a thing for vacations… and plates for that matter. One of the reasons I love vacations is I love sharing with my family the amazing variety of what God has created. My vacation soundtrack is Louis Armstrong singing “What a Wonderful World”!
So, sturdy shoes, an ace bandage and pain reliever are on my packing list. But what I pack is not nearly as important as my constant traveling companion. His name is Jesus. And, man oh man, there is power in the name of Jesus. And a joy that casts out my inner Eeyore.