I wrote elsewhere this week about stumbling into gratitude and into heaven, all through a slender wedge of apple. I only came back to this bit of my history because a young woman in a group to whom I had been speaking-knowing I have lost a child to disease-asked how to cope with the hurt and anger of her own cancer.
There was a time when I would have slung Bible verses at her with the best of them. Count it all joy. . . . God works all things together for good. . . . I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Verse after verse after verse, forever and ever amen.
When you're in hell on this broken earth, and you're on the receiving end of all that versifying, it's hard not to wish that God had sucked up Job's chatty friends into that great whirlwind of His.
So I told her about that wedge of apple, about sitting numb and broken-down at my kitchen table with my dying girl just upstairs, and feeling the sunshine on my sorrowful skin and tasting that slice of sweet fruit and understanding, in that moment, that heaven can crash into hell in the blink of an eye. I told her about being so very grateful for that slender taste of sweetness and peace, and how since then I've tried to be aware of those small miracles all around me, those quiet intrusions of grace.
This in turn makes me think of my friend Ann Voskamp's beautiful book One Thousand Gifts, which has taught me something I need to learn over and over again: thankfulness. "I would never experience the fullness of my salvation," she writes, "until I expressed the fullness of my thanks every day, and eucharisteo is elemental to living the saved life."
The Eucharist is the giving of thanks, and it once was the center of every Christian worship service, and perhaps more then at the center of every Christian life. I confess it is rarely at the center of this life of mine. Instead I see what is lacking, and implicit in that vision of absences is a sense of my own entitlement. I'm supposed to succeed at my job. My marriage is supposed to be good. My children are supposed to grow old.
To see all the world lacks is to have a darkened vision, but to see it as Ann encourages me to do, as a series of blessings-this apple, that phone call, the cool breeze where earlier was only baking heat-is to approach joy.
Joy, on this darkening earth, after all these wound-bearing years. Joy. It sounds almost laughable, but then I remember the times when I have felt joy in spite of myself, and I think that perhaps the only laughable thing is to imagine that the God who calls Himself love would want anything less for me, for you. But will we let ourselves have it? Will we taste and see that the Lord is good?