Sunday, May 29, 2011

Crossing the bridge

This daily practice of counting and recording graces - most often the simple, overlooked gifts so blindly rushed past - is changing me. Not an overnight make-over, but a gradual cleansing of the eyes that have been crusted with dirt and grime. As I child, I was prone to worry. Dentist appointments, shots, finances, the end of the world, being sent as a missionary to Africa - I worried about it all. I grew out of it as I grew up, learned to let go, but then came trauma.

Trauma scarred my eyes, distorted the lens through which I interpreted the world.

But each of us are bound to know the scar of trauma in our stories, whether in the past or today or somewhere in the future. So what is the vaccination against the hardening of disbelief, the suffocating fear and anxiety, the cynicism or pessimism that seap into our souls with the scarring?

In one word, thanks.

I'm learning that giving thanks daily, all throughout the day, builds trust. Saying it outloud and writing it down. Trying to think positive thoughts doesn't build trust. Medicating myself for anxiety would not build trust. Even praying about my anxiety or fear alone does not build trust. It's a certain type of prayer, the prayer with thanksgiving, that opens a new path for me to walk on.

I keep quoting one of my new favorite authors, Ann Voskamp, because her words cut a path through the muck to the heart: "Trust is the bridge from yesterday to tomorrow, built with the planks of thanks." This is how I walk unafraid. This is how I walk into peace, away from anxiety. Deliberately, sometimes irrationally, turning my back on the scenes and emotions that fill up a moment with heaviness, and training my eyes to see grace through thanks.

I've glided over Jesus' words many times, but not today. Today I want to glide, but I stop and let the words catch up to me: "The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Matthew 6:22-23).

When my eyes are ungrateful, full of the shadows of death and loss and sorrow, I see darkness. I live in shadows. The only way to open the curtains that shut out the light, scraping off the crustiness, retraining the retinas, is the ongoing act of giving thanks.

But what about true losses, true grief, legitimate anxiety and fear and sorrow? Ignoring them is not the answer. I can't pretend they aren't real. I learn how to see through them. That bridge of trust is built with one plank of thanks at a time. While it's hard to see in the swirling of dust, in the raw ache of a wound, maybe the answer is to keep walking and not try to see everything in a moment.

"In time, years, dust settles. In memory, ages, God emerges. Then when we look back, we see God's back." Another Ann epiphany. How many bridges have I crossed in life, been able to look back and see God's back, if I have eyes to see?

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