Thursday, November 27, 2014

'Nothing Left to Wish For': Thoughts on Thanksgiving

Before the movie Race to Witch Mountain (with Dwayne Johnson) came out in 2009, I watched the 1975 original: Escape to Witch Mountain. Two mysterious orphans—a brother and sister—possess strange powers, including telekinesis and mind reading. I felt that I had a special connection with them because I can read my sister's mind. (No, really. One time I told this kid at church I could read Katie's mind. I told the kid that Katie was thinking about a tuna fish sandwich. When we asked my sister what she was thinking about, guess what she said? A tuna fish sandwich.)

Anyway, the two kids stay temporarily in this huge mansion with these rich people. They don't know it yet, but the rich people want to steal their powers somehow. In the meantime, though, the kids have this huge house with all of these awesome toys and pretty much everything they could ever want. When I was 8, I thought the house in the movie looked like the coolest thing ever. But before the kids even figured out the nefarious motives of their adopters, the sister tells her brother why they cannot stay there. She says something like: "We have to leave. If we stay, there will be nothing left to wish for."

I didn't understand it. Didn't they want a family? Weren't all of the toys and the house enough to make them happy? Why would they leave? But they did. In my little 8-year-old mind, I thought about what it would be like to have nothing left to wish for. It didn't sound like a bad thing. So what was wrong with that concept?

Like birthdays and New Year's, Thanksgiving is often a time to reflect on the happenings of the past year. Some families might squeeze 10 people around a too-small dining room table—every inch of it covered in plates of mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, turkey, and apple pie—and take a few minutes to share what they are thankful for. We're thankful for our families, country, friends, God, education, etc.

I'm thankful for some of the same things all the time, but every year I have some new blessings to count. For instance, this year, the Lord answered three of my prayers for this semester, all in ways I did not expect. All three were cases in which I noticed something was missing from my life, and I asked God to fill it. He did.

Thankfulness is kind of like binary code. The things you have are 1's, and the things you don't are 0's. Because you have, for example, food to eat each day, you might consider what it would be like if you didn't know where your next meal would come from. On the other hand, maybe you don't have a job, and you're looking for one. You think about what it would be like to find the right job because it's something you notice that you don't have. The reason we notice we have something to be thankful for or that we don't have something we want is because the people around us either lack what we have, or they have what we desperately want.

I don't think Binary Thankfulness really covers it because that's operating under the assumption that 1) we know what we need and 2) life is only about getting what we need or want. So many of my unanswered prayers brought me to praise God years later because my requests were foolish, and the Lord had different plans. So often God provides me with blessings I didn't even ask for, and I wonder how I didn't notice the emptiness in my life beforehand. I have found new joy this year in trying to give back. We are the hands and feet of Christ, and it is a great privilege to figure out how we can show the love of Christ to others.

This year I didn't get the first summer job I applied for, but I got to do a writing job from home and spend time with my family. I don't see my parents much because they live 13 hours away. I got to do some really neat work this semester in grad school, and I made some new friends. I could write an entire blog post about all of the things I'm thankful for, but it would take years to write and probably break Blogger. I'm primarily thankful for the people in my life: my parents, sister, extended family, professors/mentors, pastors/teachers, old friends who still put up with me, and new friends. I see a little bit of Jesus in each of my Christian friends, and spending time with them makes it easier to be like Him.

For the first 22 years of life, most people I knew did the same thing: go to school, get into college, go to college, and graduate. Now, though, people are branching out and doing different things. Some people are married. Some are having kids. Others are teaching overseas or pursuing artistic goals. Still others are moving up the corporate ladder or looking for the perfect job. Then there are a few like me who are in college part 2 grad school. We all are doing different activities; we all have different blessings; we all make different contributions, and that is okay. Though it is important to use your time wisely, you don't have to do what everyone else is doing. Look at all the unique blessings the Lord has offered us!

I don't have everything. I'm not yet sure what I'm doing when I graduate (despite the 70,000 people who have asked me what I'm doing). I have so much to learn. I want to be a better writer. I want to understand people, ideas, health insurance, directions, savings accounts, taxes, and politics. I want to do things and go places and serve people and get to know God better. Who knows how much time I have left here on Earth? I want to live every day like it's the day the Lord has made. (Oh, wait... it is!) I am learning to be thankful for what I have without slowing down. How far I've come is no reason to stop. How far I have to go is no reason to complain.

Have you ever heard the saying, "If you had everything, where would you put it?" I always thought that was a stupid saying. Because if I owned everything, no one would be telling me to put my stuff away. I'd just walk around and think, "Well, I own that tower, and that beach, and that library, and that walrus. Oh, look, it's my collection of rare amphibians." But what does it mean to have everything? I'm certain that even if we all could wish for whatever we wanted, we would not be able to ascertain what is best for us.

At the end of the Escape to Witch Mountain (spoiler alert!), the two kids meet up with their long lost uncle and escape in a flying saucer. I'm pretty sure it was implied that they are from some distant planet, which is obviously different from Earth. Beside the fact that their adopters were going to try to steal their powers, the kids would not have been happy living in the Giant Mansion With Everything... because they didn't belong there. They belonged in a different world.

C.S. Lewis wrote, "If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that we were made for another world." That is why—in this life—we will never be left with nothing else to long for. We do have Jesus now, but we don't belong in this world. Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to recognize the many blessings God has given us, even in this fallen world, even when we don't deserve them, even when we don't immediately recognize them. It's a good time to become the kind of people who serve others so that they will have more to be thankful for. And it's a great time to remember that this world cannot satisfy, but one day we will be with Jesus—the reason we exist, the reason we have anything, and the reason we can be saved.

"When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we'd first begun."
—Amazing Grace

No comments:

Post a Comment