We were on holiday, but it felt anything but.
What was meant to be a relaxing break turned into night after night of futile conversations deteriorating into long-drawn discussions and arguments on the same old issues. A spot of rain the night before had turned the seas choppy and rough on our cruise that day, and we fought to keep our enjoyment up and our lunches down on a 2.5-hour dolphin cruise where we saw no dolphins. And to top it off we hiked further than expected carrying bags full of groceries and shopping to a dinner place promising fantastically fresh seafood that dished out greasy substandard calamari, poor service and bad sushi that was overpriced, and we ended up having another colourless conversation that went nowhere.
I was beyond frustration. And I think TJ was too, not that I cared very much about that at the time.
We trudged along in silence on the long trek back to our apartment, complaining to God inside and wallowing in self-pity. Then came the suggestion from my annoying husband:
“Shall we count our blessings for the day?”
Was this guy for real? Why, Lord? I cried internally. Of all times, why now?
Well, came His quiet, friendly voice from within, why not now?
It was a game of sorts, one that we had come up with on another gloomy occasion, to break the monotony of the negativity and cheer us up a bit. We would take turns to say something positive we recalled about the day, however small, each in turn from the very start of the day up till the moment we were at.
As we continued walking, TJ offered, “I’ll go first. It wasn’t raining when we woke up this morning.”
I took a breath, glanced heavenwards and answered, “The sky was beautiful this morning.”
“We were early and we didn’t miss the boat.” “It didn’t rain when we were out at sea.” “We didn’t get seasick.”
We were gaining momentum now. “We saw a seal in the waters.” “We saw two.” “The scenery on the cruise was amazing.” “We got 3 bags of chips for $5 on special at Countdown.”
I couldn’t help but smile at his last contribution to the blessings list. Even the littlest things are worth celebrating.
We were back on our street, the last few hundred metres having flown by in celebration of the day. Turning to TJ, I replied, “We had a good walk with Jesus. Thank you for pointing us back into the light.” Returning the smile, he asked, “Do you want to get some gelato?”
“That’d be nice.” As we sat side by side savouring the delicious treat, my darling husband rounded off the list with “We are having a yummy dessert to our dinner.”
So often we get caught up with what’s wrong rather than what’s right. I certainly am one who suffers from that. Studies show that for every negative thing that is being said to you, you’d need to hear ten positive things to neutralise the effect of that one negative comment. Christine Caine also famously blogged about the one little black dot that draws all our attention at the expense of the big white space around it.
Counting our blessings doesn’t deny or change our circumstances, however upsetting they may be, but it shifts our focus to see the beauty that is already there. It brings light into our darkness. It transforms the mundanity of our life into joy and celebration of everyday miracles.
Jesus is life. Jesus is light. Jesus is joy. When He is in our life, He will bring life, light and joy into the darkest of nights, and into the most ordinary or average of our days.
Many of us think that when we get close to Jesus, His light may send away the darkness, but it will also show up our own weakness and ugliness. What we don’t realise is that His light is of a kind that is so bright and brilliant that it not only swallows up the entire darkness, but it also reflects and puts on His brilliance and beauty into our imperfections.
Because it’s never been about us and what we do. It’s always about Him and what He has done for us.
So as you count your blessings for the year, may we also encourage you to say yes to grace today?
Because when we encounter Jesus, we encounter grace.