December 17, 2013

When Gratitude Holds Hands with Suffering


During his recent extended stay in the hospital, two words spilled from my father’s mouth over and over. They were the simple words, “Thank you."

Dad thanked the nurses, the techs, the lady who dust-mopped the floor. He thanked the girl who came in with her tablet computer to okay the day’s menu. The menu would be far from okay, but he thanked her anyway.

Of course, he thanked the doctors who dropped into see him, even the on-call doc who seemed to be backing out the door as fast as she had walked in.

My Dad is a natural leader. And though his health and lifestyle have been compromised, he gave gratitude extravagantly to those who came to do their jobs. Never did he express entitlement for the care he was given.

It wasn’t long until I noticed that those caring for him were actually looking forward to coming in the door to do their part in keeping the huge medical machine running smoothly. As they entered Room 716, they would expect some teasing, maybe a story or a joke. And as they exited, they would hear the words "thank you."

Gratitude is a powerful motivator. In no way do I believe that Dad was expressing gratitude to manipulate. For him, it is a way a life, a character quality that served him well in the years he managed huge factories that produced thousands of pairs of jeans each week.

Gratitude has an understated power. When people know they are appreciated, their work finds its greater purpose. Relationships are built and a job feels less like a task and more like a calling.

Dad unintentionally led those who cared for him by his expressions of gratitude. He built community among those who were clocking in for a paycheck. It came as naturally to him as breathing.

Dad is home for the time being, having been given a window of time to rest until the next phase of his treatment.

I rest at my house with no real agenda for my day. Grateful.

The artic air took off on the jet stream day before yesterday and a southern breeze is calling me to the back porch. This afternoon I will sit in front of a blazing fire and breathe, sink into the stillness of this day, discipline myself to live in the now.

But before I do, I want to express my gratitude to those of you reading this who held me up in prayer over the past two months. Thank you for praying for Dad. And thank you for praying for me, as I have walked a sometimes weary path with him during these early days of his fight with Multiple Myeloma.

When I think of the prayer warriors who I have the privilege to call my friends, I am reminded of the battle Israel fought against Amalek. Joshua was leading the army while Aaron and Hur provided support for Moses as he appealed to his Friend for victory. (Exodus 17)

I am no Moses but I feel as if my friends have pulled up a rock for me to rest on, have held up my arms toward the Throne of Grace. My strength has its source in Another.

Despite missed meals and sleep-deprived nights, I haven’t been sick since the day I started running Dad to and from appointments. Though there have been several near misses, I haven’t been in any car accidents---even on the Friday when I misjudged the weather and drove home through an ice storm.

God has been with us. Immanuel.

A blog is a lame way to show gratitude. In my heart of hearts, I want to squeeze your hand, look into your beautiful eyes and say these words: “Thank you." 

My heart is full. To know such love from God and his people is such an overwhelming emotion. Thank you for allowing the mystery of prayer to be a source of strength for me during these difficult days.

I am certain Dad would say the same---my father whose example helped me see that gratitude can hold hands with suffering.

The New Year looms on the horizon with new challenges. If I think too far ahead, I will lose today in the shadows of an unknown future.

God has given enough for today and no more. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Linking with Jennifer at #TellHisStory and Emily at Imperfect Prose

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