My daughter loves to pray. Lest anyone think I’m bragging, these prayers are not overly spiritual or anything beyond what a 3-year-old should pray: no, mostly they consist of her saying “Thank you Lord for this yummy food and that we had a good day. Aaaaaaamen!” (She says this even when there’s nothing on her plate she wants to eat.) Obviously, as her mother, I’m an easy sell on thinking this is adorable – which it is – but it’s also profound. Who taught her to say this? Where else is it coming from other than an imitation of what she sees happen before every meal, a conclusion that this food came from God, and that she’s grateful and wants to express it?
As I’ve thought more about my attitude toward God, the more I’m grateful for my little 3-year-old’s habits. She delights in what’s normal – not just food, but dandelions and clovers and birdwatching and construction vehicles, things that are absolutely not on my radar when I recount what I’m grateful for. And she’s delighted enough to pray about them! Why don’t I do that!?
This past year brought many, many horrible things to light. We can scarcely read an article that doesn’t center on tragedy: the pandemic, racial injustice, another nasty election cycle, so many lives impacted or lost by these difficulties. Yes, there was not much to celebrate. Any celebration that happened was, almost automatically, aligned alongside tragedy and difficulty.
And yet! But God!! There were good things, little things, all from His gracious hand. Many of them were little, ordinary things we may not have thought to be grateful for in prior years when life was (ahem) “normal.” But when we look at this season, were there things you should have been profoundly grateful for you may not have been?
For me, one object of gratitude was the gift of being outside. I have always enjoyed the outdoors; but it was a gift I enjoyed more fully when I realized how much joy we had after being in the open air. How gracious of God to give us a reason to be outside, unplugged, and more engaged with his world!
I loved the gift of intentionality – when we were all at home, how much more did we value community? Friendship both inside and outside our homes took on a different, important role. And lastly, one of the best things I loved more dearly was worship. Music, prayer, sermons – all of life is worship of something. And personally, there were (are) many times I wanted to worship things, things that could make me feel better. But when I actually worshipped God, the joy and peace I sought was closer and easier to find. Asking the Lord to give his light in a dark season brought and still brings newness.
I’ll be honest – I’m still learning to delight in God’s gracious, little gifts. I’m still tempted to withdraw from community and friendship; still tempted to make the source of my peace activities and not God. I think all of these struggles will continue for the rest of my life. But I hope, as God did so faithfully during a difficult, weird, No Good, Very Bad year, he will continue to teach me how to obey him and delight in himself. And I hope he’ll keep using my children and their attention to the little things to teach me.