About ten hours after writing this article I’ll be boarding a flight to Spain. I have spent no little time playing the world’s most intricate game of tetris in order to try and squeeze everything I need for five days into a suitcase that I can carry onboard; there’s a reason for this tussle with the laws of physics, and that is the fact that the airline I’m flying with has had occasional bad press for being sloppy with bags. I do not want to risk a missing suitcase.
It was a different story a week or so ago though. It was one of those weeks where you feel like surviving alone makes you eligible for a place on the Queen’s birthday honours list. By the Thursday of a week that had made the daily grind feel like the Hunger Games, I finally flipped. I’d love to say that I maintained my dignity but it left me almost as quickly as the stream of indignant narrative left my tongue. I retreated to the silence of an art gallery and composed myself only to lose it again just before the end of the day, while talking to a dearly loved friend.
And so I went to bed weighed under a cloud of failure; you see, there is no way that even the most liberal of biblical interpreters could suggest that I was a good ambassador for Christ in either of those moments. Ever the dramatist, I decided that this was the last straw. I was just a constant failure at this whole Christian thing and I was fed up with myself – clearly I should move to Lindisfarne and become a monk, or something of the sort.
In order to get to work on Friday morning I had only one option: bundle up all my fears and failings and take the suitcase full of them with me. I trudged through the day in the office, our new starters kindly bringing in cake and injecting a little cheer into my bubble, and made it through to five o’clock when I headed to church for the opening night of our men’s conference.
I was not feeling in the most cheery of moods, given the week I’d came out of, but as my Pastor is fond of saying: Church is the best place to have your worst day. I raised my hands regardless and tried my best not to focus on my failures during the worship. It was while putting particular effort into focussing on the words of the third song, Glorious Ruins, that I was reminded of something.
“And I’ll look to the cross, as my failure is lost in the light of Your glorious grace…”
I looked around for my big suitcase full of failures but it was nowhere to be seen. God had removed it and it was quite clear He didn’t want me to go searching lost property. It was gone for good. My failings were nothing to Him, obliterated as they always are, always were, always will be, by the astonishing nature of His grace.
When I think about thankfulness at this time of year, there are so many things to be grateful for but most of all? I’m grateful that I belong to a God who doesn’t pay attention to my failure, who doesn’t hold me at a distance when I let Him down, who doesn’t cast me off because I have a bad day. I belong to a God who never fails, who always loves, always cares.
Even when we have those days when everything ends up a mess? God is calling us to be thankful. The answer to my awful week wasn’t found going with my instinct to go home and sleep it off, it was found with my arms to the sky thanking God for His goodness even when I wasn’t really feeling it. And that is why God tells us to give thanks in all circumstances.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
– 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
The God who knew you before you were born, who planned your life, who foresaw your shortcomings and your failings and decided you were still worth the price of His pure and spotless Son? He has got this one. No matter how your day, your week, or your month, has felt, God has got this one covered.
We get so much further when we accept that, no matter how we feel, we’re sustained completely by His goodness and grace. We always, always, have that reason to thank Him and often, when we lift our eyes up and start declaring our thankfulness? Our focus shifts and we realise that our temporal problems weren’t so critical after all.
I lost my suitcase a week or so ago. If found, please don’t return.
This post was originally published on the Audacious website, 25th November 2013.