JUST THE OTHER DAY I WAS having breakfast with one of my close friends. I treasure those moments in the midst of my busy summer schedule. We quickly moved from superficial talk to what was actually happening in our life, in the here and now. You know exactly what I mean. We didn’t spend too much time talking about the weather, soccer, the summer movies or the TV shows. We decided to delve right into our life and exchange our personal stories.
One story in particular that I shared caused some deep emotion to surface in me. Some of which I was aware of, some came as a surprise. After listening to me vent; my friend asked me one simple question. As I heard his words I was dumbfounded. I stared at him for some time wondering if he was really serious. I thought to myself, “I know he is validating my feelings. I know he cares for me and understands me. But, why isn’t he giving me permission to linger in them. ” We finished our breakfast and went to our work places.
WHAT IF HE WAS RIGHT? What if my UNTHANKFUL attitude was actually taking BITTER roots in me like he pointed out? I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I knew it was not healthy for me to continue in my indulgence of unthankfulness. My pride on the other hand, gave me permission to stand my ground and continue to fan into flame my bitter unthankful attitude.
That evening as I was reflecting at home, I remembered something that happened 12 years ago. Let me preface it with a little bit of background. Before moving to Canada, I used to work at a Christian organization in Chennai, India. This organization was founded by the late Dr. Alfred George and assisted disabled and destitute men, women and children in India by meeting their spiritual, social, educational, and rehabilitation needs through its various projects and services.
Dr. George was a great mentor and friend during my brief stay there. Every time I looked at him I was amazed at the impact he had on thousands of people. He had the habit of making casual visits to my room to chat with me on a regular basis. One day, he walked into my office and pulled up a chair next to me. We started talking about life, relationships and ministry. For some reason I ended up asking him, “Dr. George, how are you able to stay so optimistic in life and always have so many positive things to say to others and about others?” He paused and gave me his trademark smile. I can still remember it as if it happened to me yesterday.
He told me that he was not always like this. There were times when he was angry with GOD for allowing him to lose his sight at a very young age. Those were times when he was bitter and frustrated with life, people and GOD. But, according to him, once he started reflecting on GOD’s love displayed by Christ on the cross, GOD’s persistent and consistent love for the very ones who were hurting and rejecting him- something in Dr. George clicked. He was overwhelmed by this crazy love and reconciled with GOD. As a result, he became thankful to GOD for what was at hand and stopped complaining about what he didn’t have. He decided to not dwell on what had happened to him, but on who he was and what he could do to make this world a better place. The rest is history.
DR. GEORGE MADE IT CLEAR THAT HE WAS ALWAYS LEARNING to be thankful everyday and desired to encourage and build up others instead of breaking or pulling them down. Then he went on to tell one specific story. He regularly travelled to many cities and some countries to share about God’s love and raise support for his work. During one of his many trips he brought home gifts for his three kids. He asked them to pick one each as he was holding the bag. The oldest one put her hand into the bag and felt everything inside. She then picked the softest gift. The youngest one rushed in and put his hand inside the bag and pressed hard on everything that was inside and picked the one that interested him and with an excited scream ran away to play with it. The middle one, he said, was standing silently.
Dr. George asked her to take the remaining gift from the bag. She dipped her hand and without wasting time- picked it up, looked at the toy and said in her cute little voice, “Thank you, daddy.” He stretched out his hands and asked her to show him what she had picked. Without hesitating she gave the doll to him. He started to touch the gift to know what it was. His hands felt the broken pieces of the doll and he asked her if the doll was broken. To which she replied, “Yes.” Dr. George said that tears started rolling down his eyes. While his other kids picked their choice of gifts and went away to play with it without uttering a word, my middle kid stood there with her broken gift in her hand to thank me. He told me, “Sam, in her brokenness she gave thanks to me. In doing that she has taught me to give thanks even in my brokenness.”
GOD REMINDED ME YET AGAIN of Dr. George’s story the same way he had reminded me several other times since i’ve heard it. It puzzles me as to how easily I forget and take other people and the things that I have in my life and even my own life for granted. To top all of this,as I was listening to Ravi Zacharias’ speech this week I was challenged with the question, “Some people like to smell ROTTEN eggs, but others choose to lay GOOD ones. Which one am I?”
May I be thankful, even in my brokenness. May I stop criticizing and complaining and make the world a better place by who I am and by what I say and do with what I have.
Samuel Williams is co-founder & content director at Fluid. He is also the teaching pastor at Avenue Community Church in Toronto, Canada.