“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, thank you, that would suffice. ” ~Meister Eckhart
This morning, I went to ride my bike along Coal Creek trail, which is about thirty feet from my house. The weather was perfect. The sun was lighting up the lush scenery like an ethereal baptism. I could hear the rush of the creek beside me and it sounded like hope.
And there were gnats. Lots of lots of gnats. Like millions of them. I would be enjoying the ride until I would hit pockets of the tiny little nuisances. They would smack me in the face like a sultry woman in a bad soap opera.
I kept thinking “Dang it! This ride would be perfect if it weren’t for the gnats.” It is all I could think about the whole ride, even debating in my head why a good God would create annoying bugs that sometimes ruin my outdoor experiences.
I stopped at my J tree by the water, which is, as expected, a tree that looks like a J.
Still frustrated with those gnats, I leaned against my tree and breathed in deep.
It’s a funny thing, air. It always surrounds us, but we seldom ever remember that it’s there. We take it for granted. Literally, we think that it has been granted to us, rather than gifted to us. Every once in a while, though, we stop, open up out lungs, and feel the oxygen rushing through our body, giving us life. We momentarily remember this gift that has been given to us every second since we were born.
I started thinking what a blessing it was to have this breathtaking landscape so close to my home, waiting for me to explore it. Then I started to remember how good it felt to breathe after a bike ride. I was reminded of a time, years ago, when I was floating in water and noticed my heart beating. I felt like God said to me “Kate, I didn’t just start your heart when you were born and then forget about it. Every time that it beats, I am consciously making it beat. That is how intimately involved I am with your life.”
That started me thinking about my body, a body that was in constant pain and exhaustion only a few years ago. A body that was much to sick to ride a bike.
There are two things that I have prayed for more than anything else in my life. The first prayer was (and still is) for a happy family. The second was for my body to be healthy again when I was sick.
Most of the latter prayers were desperate and hopeless. I didn’t know if they would ever be answered.
And here I was sitting on my J tree, breathing deep. Incredibly healthy, no constant pain in my joints, no exhaustion, sleeping through the night every night for the last week. Riding a bike.
I breathed in deep the air of God’s goodness.
One of the two most important prayers of my life has been answered in abundance. But with the challenges and the business of the days since my healing, I have forgotten. Often, I have let my unanswered prayers overshadow my answered prayers. Sitting by the water, breathing in the crisp air, I stopped to remember the ones that God has answered. And I was thankful.
On my ride back, I started smiling. Probably the most I’ve smiled in a long time..
I ignored what happened next, reminding myself to floss when I got home.
In the worship song Come Fall On Us, written by some friends of mine, it says A thankful heart prepares the way for you my God.
I have thought of that line several times when I’ve worshipped, because it’s so true. I know that God will come whether we are thankful or not. But it’s really hard to see God when we are focused on what we don’t have. It’s hard to see beauty when all we are thinking about is gnats.
On my bedside, I have a vase that is full of stones. On every stone, I have affixed a picture. For every season of my life, I have one stone with a picture that represents that season, and another that represents what God taught me in that season.
During my depression in college (a picture of girl crying) I learned that God would heal and restore me as many times as the waves crashed to the shore, the promise he made to me during that time (a picture of a lighthouse.)
During the season of my sickness (a picture of a tick) I understood more what it meant to be loved and to depend on those that I love (a picture of a girl holding a heart balloon.)
After writing a letter extending forgiveness to someone who greatly hurt me (a picture of a letter in a mailbox) I learned that God’s forgiveness of me and my forgiveness of others puts me in a place where I can’t be bound up by anything, a place where I am truly free (a picture of a girl with long red hair dancing with abandon.)
These stones are my ebenezer. This was the name of the altar the Israelites built after they won back Ark of the Covenant, the very presence of God, from the Phillisitnes, who had stolen it many years earlier. The Ark was their most precious possession. To win it back meant everything to them.
Literally translated, ebenezer means stone of help.
God is always present with us, but sometimes it feels like he has been stolen. For seasons at a time, because of the limited perception of our trials, it can be very difficult to enter into that holy place. But we can’t simply wait for the victory in order to be thankful. Often, being thankful is what brings the victory.
Samuel set a stone up in that place and said “It is here that the Lord has helped us.” (I Samuel 7:12.) He set this stone up as a time to pause and say, “God, thank you for what you’ve done.”
God has walked this journey with me every step of the way. There are stones that mark the trials of my life, but there are also stones that match those trials with wisdom gained, with life lived, with trust for the one who never stops walking with me. He has always been faithful. And he’s not going to stop now.
As Jean Baptiste of Massieu said, “Gratitude is a memory of the heart.”
I remember today God, I remember.
(Excuse me while I go floss. )