In this warm season of friends and family and frozen foul that take days to thaw, it’s difficult, often harrowing, to acknowledge life’s less-than-stellar moments and espouse even a somewhat thankful spirit. And yet impossible though the task may seem, finding the song amid the chaos has produced such release and redemption in my life. Hope.
Over the last twenty-six years, I’ve weathered some severe struggles. Here are ten of my fiercest in which, eventually, I saw redemption emerge – even if such a silver lining took years to clear. I’m so thankful for the perspective-shift struggle always brings.
Acne. Because as much as my spotty complexion shamed and shadowed my teenage years, it’s forever opened my eyes to the struggles of kids I work with today – from the outside inward. I am thankful.
Isolation. Because while I’ve dreaded little more than the role of the outsider, whether among other men or Christians at large, I always used to ignore my fellow outsiders in my mad pursuit for the inner circle; now, I more pressingly feel the need and desire to bring other outsiders in along with me. I am thankful.
Insults. Because through the infliction of daggers in others’ words from elementary school to the present, I’ve more vitally realized the power that stems from my own tongue. The power to build, and the power to devastate. I am thankful.
Tears. Because while the outpouring of liquid from the same place my vision flows is beyond bizarre and jarring, there undoubtedly emerges such a sweet release in this strange salty wake. In conjunction with community, the power of tears to connect human souls astounds me time and time again. I am thankful.
Joblessness. Because while I’ve often wondered where next month’s rent would come from, or where my life was even going, the blank canvas has repeatedly paved the way for new exciting work. And so touching have been those needy times in which I received unexpected financial gifts from friends and family alike. I am thankful.
Vehicle Disasters. Because even though replacing a new $400 radiator is just awful, a couple mere hours beyond the waiting room I still had a ride to a job in which I was eventually distributed a paycheck — a ride and a paycheck that a vast majority of this world severely lacks. I am thankful.
Abandonment. Because as precious friends have left me, I more consciously realize the impact I have on others. I am thankful.
Sexual brokenness. Because through my pursuit of pornography and online dead-ends, I’ve more clearly seen the value of actual human relationships, male and female both. I’ve more deeply empathized with where so many others, male and female both, have also shamefully fallen. I am thankful.
The Unknown. Because despite the desperation of the desert, ravaging the sandy dunes in search of work, friends, or purpose, there’s nothing quite like crawling ditches through the sand only to see those first impossible signs of fauna and freedom. I am thankful.
Two summers ago, I worked at a boys’ camp – an incredible oasis that I was only able to find after enduring the desert, experiencing isolation unparalleled. That camp had the following quote emblazoned on the back of its welcoming sign:
God, give us hills to climb and strength to climb them.
Life certainly isn’t easy, but in a strange almost nonsensical way I’m thankful for this fact. So very thankful. I’m learning every great story has its ups and downs, our very lives included, the greatest stories of all, and it’s only through the suffering in those lowly valleys that we truly treasure the glory at the peak.
Above all, I’m thankful for the hills of life. Because when you finally hit the top and realize the depths from which you’ve climbed and the infinite faraway places still left to venture – that’s a thrilling fulfilling feeling like none other.
What’s one struggle or difficulty you can be thankful for in this season?