For each of the past five years, I have gone on an international mission trip. I remember my 2011 trip being particularly poignant because, after weeks of living in a mud hut in Sudan, I returned to civilization in the midst of our extravagant holiday season.
Over the course of a 24 hour period, I went from a bat-infested mud hut with no electricity or running water to the opulence and busyness of Christmas in America. I went from 118 degree heat – caked in mud and having not bathed in two weeks – to dressing up in fancy gowns and sipping champagne at holiday parties. I went from a culture where starving, impoverished villagers slaughtered a goat for me in thankfulness for my medical services, to a culture where people nearly slaughtered each other as they stormed the shelves of Toys R Us looking for a Tickle-Me-Elmo to ensure their kid had a happy face on Christmas morning. It was the worst reverse culture shock I’ve ever experienced.
I think I spent most of that Christmas angry with everyone around me for their utter lack of thankfulness for our very many blessings. We have a tendency to be a greedy, entitled, self-interested people. We also have the capacity to be a wonderfully kind, loving and selfless people.
2014 has been a hard year for me. I’ve been rejected and abandoned by a fiancé, wounded by trusted friends, insulted by thoughtless family members, infested with fleas that just wouldn’t die, and subjected to petty office politics instigated by jealous coworkers. But I still count myself blessed. I believe that God is good and that even my trials have purpose; they are for my betterment and for God’s glory. People are messy and will fail us, but they are still beautiful and carry within them the breathtaking story of redemption. And even when people fail us, God remains a rock and a refuge for those who seek Him. He is faithful, even when we are faithless.
I have been blessed this year because, even in my trials, God has allowed me to see the lovingkindness and selflessness that people are capable of. And I am thankful, despite the heartache I’ve endured. As my Dad always says (regardless of circumstances!), “Life is good.”
My prayer for us all this Thanksgiving is that we pause our frantic busyness to truly stop, right our perspective, and be thankful for our very many blessings.
“Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” -Ps. 30:5