Truthfully, the world isn't always wonderful. The past few weeks have been particularly dark for some people we know and love dearly. We've had our own challenges, too. A bright pink sunrise painted across the sky is obviously beautiful. Death and heart sorrow and disease, not so much.
Today, in my Bible reading (and I got more than that requested half hour!), Psalm 50 said several times that God desires our thanks.
"What I want instead (of your sacrifices) is your true thanks to God." vs 14.
"But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me." vs 23
Over in Mark 13, another chapter I read, several times Jesus reminds us he is coming soon.
"You can be sure that his return is very near, right at the door."
"And since you don't know when they will happen, stay alert and keep watch."
"So keep a sharp lookout! For you do not know when the homeowner will return... Don't let him find you sleeping when he arrives without warning... Watch for his return !" vs 35-37
I often wonder, how should we live in these dark days? I see the signs all around me that our world is falling apart, that Jesus really could return at any moment. And I tend to feel so helpless and useless when I consider this. Who am I saving? Who am I pulling from the fires of hell? The world out there is lost and dying, and I spend most of my days never even leaving my home. Often, my only engagement with the real world is via Facebook (and, boy, that can bring you down and remind you of the total depravity of man). I do feel insignificant most days and long to be a light to the world.
Recently, another passage from Mark ministered to me. In Mark 9, vs 30 and 31, it says "Jesus tried to avoid all publicity in order to spend more time with his disciples and teach them." For 30 years, Jesus lived an obscure life in a little village of unknown people. He was a carpenter. He cared for his widowed mother, went to weddings and funerals, celebrated the holy days, all of it as a regular guy, no fanfare, no miracles, no glowing head signifying his Deity. And even after he began his earthly ministry, even with only three years to teach and perform miracles and healings and tell the good news of the Kingdom, he still tried to avoid his paparazzi. It was important to him to get away and be alone with his disciples, the twelve guys that would carry the message of the gospel long after he ascended to heaven. He wasn't about the Jesus Show, all the outward manifestations of his power and glory. He was about people. Teaching. Discipling. Being faithful to train up the ones he was given.
This blesses me. I've got my own little brood of disciples and more and more I realize how little time I have left with my oldest one. Five and a half years at home, and then he may be gone. The others will trickle out of the house, too, and this is good. But it sobers me. As I think of watching and waiting for Jesus and the possibility of his return at any hour, and wonder what on earth I am doing for his kingdom as I live in obscurity within my own four walls, I am heartened as I look at the life of my Savior. I realize that my life is following a similar pattern. The needs outside my walls are pressing, but this is the work I have been called to do right now: get away with my little disciples and teach them.
We have recently been laying all our commitments out on the table and taking each one to the chopping block, so to speak. This is hard, as we do many good things. There are many things we are not sure of, but there are a few callings we are positive of. And one of them is to disciple our children. The Lord has called us away from some of the good things we have been doing in order to minister to our family better. It is what he has called us to do for now, as we watch and wait for his return. Even to us, it seems a little counter intuitive to leave some ministries behind, but he continues to confirm it to us.
And back to Psalm 50, and giving thanks. As I watch and wait, maybe the simple, but perfect, answer on how to live is to be continually thankful. Even that can be a sacrifice and offering for it does not always come easily. How do we thank him for broken relationships and death and illness? For war and prejudice and evil? These things, like no other, certainly make me thankful that he is returning soon. But how do I thank him for the banana thrown on the floor (again) and the bickering among my children? I'm not always sure in the moment, but as I look back on my years as a mom, I see that even in these frustrations, something beautiful has grown. I have learned to loose my hold on "perfection" because it is not here yet. It belongs to another time and place.
For now, I am called to a holy life of little but great things, and to a life of thanksgiving through it all. No great blog following or teaching ministry or book deal. But when I finally hear those little feet hit the floor and come thumping downstairs, and that little voice calling my name, whether I got my half hour or not, I know the sweetness of obscurity. And I do give thanks for it.
Photo note: These photographs were sent to me recently, on Baby B's second birthday, by my girl Sara, taken back in October.