Undoing my Unthankfulness
Every year on Thanksgiving when my family sits down to eat dinner, we go around the table and share something we’re thankful for. Usually I’ll name one of my favorite recent events or mention a current circumstance that’s made me particularly happy. You could probably file most of my responses under What I’ve Loved About This Year.
But I’m not sure how it will go in a couple weeks because I’ve spent the better part of 2014 hating it.
Really, though. I’ve been riding on the low end of a scale from 1 to everything is the worst for months, scratching, clawing, trying to scale the walls of a seemingly bottomless pit and climb my way to the top. But when all I’m left is out of breath with clods of dirt under my fingernails, the last thing I can think to do is be grateful. For anything.
In February, my life exploded. Maybe that’s a tad dramatic, but it exploded, I swear. After a year of solidifying friendships, thriving in my church community, immersing myself in ministry, finding comfort in my job, and falling back in love with my city, the rug was pulled out from under me, and the pieces of my life were suddenly in freefall.
It started when I took a risk on love that ended in heartbreak. I know. It happens. And I think I expected as much, but that expectation didn’t leave me any less devastated. At the time, I thought there were two possible outcomes:
- I would tell him how I felt, he would feel the same way, and we would live happily ever after.
- I would tell him how I felt, he wouldn’t feel the same, and we would go on being close friends.
I never anticipated outcome number three, which was: I would tell him how I felt, he wouldn’t feel the same, and I would withdraw from everyone and everything out of embarrassment, shame, and sadness. But that’s what happened.
I stopped going to my church. I rejected invites to social events. I no longer felt comfortable doing ministry with the same group of people. Many of my relationships became strained, and some ended. The whole situation was an elephant in the room, the root of my anxiety, a constant fear and obsession. I was paralyzed by an identity crisis, and for as often as I cried out to God, the wounds were only deepening.
As the avalanche gained momentum, I started to feel antsy at work. A cloud of instability moved in, making a home over my already fragile head. Questions led to searching elsewhere, and eventually, suspicions were confirmed: my job was being eliminated. I didn’t have a choice anymore — I would officially have to find a new place to work.
And somewhere in between all of that, I realized I was going to have to move out of the house where I had lived with my sister for a year. A tiring apartment search didn’t yield any viable options, especially in the midst of my job search, so, at 30, I moved back home to live with my parents.
Most mornings when I wake up, I dread the next 24 hours. I know I’ll obsess over how I lost my friends, my church, my job, my comfort, and my independence this year. I’ll beat myself up because so much has changed, and I’ve kicked and screamed through the whole thing less than gracefully.
I’ve implored God for answers, begging for clarity and restoration. It’s funny how we attempt to comfort other people with all the “God has a plan for you” stuff, but it’s often difficult to trust the plan when it’s YOUR plan.
And it HAS been difficult.
But I do trust Him. All along, I’ve never questioned His love for me. And when the reality of my unwavering confidence in Christ’s love for me sinks in every once in a while — when I take a second or two to reflect on how He’s never abandoned me — I can’t help but be grateful. Besides, we’re all promised suffering and hardships on this journey with Him, and we don’t get to choose when we walk through the deepest valleys. He’s a God of comfort, but how can He be a comforter if we’re not struggling and learning and embracing our brokenness? It’s a painful and beautiful reality of living a life dependent on Jesus.
Life Explosion 2014 has been unfortunate. It’s been a disaster I’ve yet to recover from, an ongoing cycle of wasted days. So, here’s this: maybe at this year’s Thanksgiving dinner, my nugget of thankfulness will just have to come out of the It’s Been a Tough Year, but I’m OK file. It might be followed by some awkward silence and chirping crickets, but at least it will be honest.
After all, I’ve given a lot up, but God has seen me through to a point where I have finally been able to start rebuilding.
I started attending a new church, and I’m starting to feel at home there. I’ve spent lots of precious time strengthening relationships with a smaller group of family and friends, people who speak truth into my life and love me unconditionally. I’ve found the strength to continue pouring my heart and soul into a ministry I love, persevering despite the discomfort. I start my new job next week, and I have plans to move out of my parents’ house by the end of the year.
My challenge now is to not just be grateful for the gradual improvement in my circumstances, but to remain thankful for the stumbles and falls, the scraped knees and scars that have brought me here.
Tara Bender is a graphic designer, blogger, and hot mess living Indianapolis. She writes about the trials & triumphs of being a single Christian woman in her 30s at noneedformirrors.net.