Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:6-19
This month I've been attending a Wednesday night Bible study about Advent, the season of preparing for Jesus' birth. I suppose we are preparing for the preparing, heh.
At the beginning of tonight's meeting, our pastor Jason welcomed us, led us in prayer, and then said, "We'll get started in about two minutes." He sat on the edge of the desk, and after about ten seconds of uncomfortable silence someone piped up with a question unrelated to the study. After answering the question, Jason pointed out what terrible "waiters" we are. We weren't able to just wait for the session to begin...we had to be doing something. This led into a discussion of the fact that when we can't control our circumstances, the only thing we can control is our response to them.
As an example, Jason was talking about the frustrations of air travel. (Amen.) He mentioned a mission trip that we took to Mexico in 2006, which involved opportunities to give thanks for all kinds of unforeseen circumstances, or to feel angry and put-upon if one were so inclined. This trip included flight delays, missed connections, an emergency landing because of smoke in the cockpit, and a flat tire on our 15-passenger hoopty rental van, out in the middle of nowhere. The first Spanish word many of us learned was "flexibilidad" and as a group I think we did a pretty good job with the concept.
I got to thinking about how those experiences, unpleasant as they were in the moment, made for amazing bonding within our group. Some of my favorite memories of the trip wouldn't have happened if everything had gone according to our plans instead of according to God's will. I find that that happens often when I travel: The unexpected inconvenience, detour, or change in plans often results in some joyful surprise that just may be the highlight of the journey.
Isn't that generally true of our whole lives? We believe we know what is best for us, and we despair when our best-laid plans go awry, when relationships end painfully, when babies don't arrive as easily as we had expected, when whatever we thought we needed is yanked away. My life is full of those unanswered prayers, and when I look back I thank God for his infinite mercy in guiding me to where He wants me. I hear all the time the saying, "When God close a door, He opens a window." I think that in most cases, that window was always there but we were too busy clawing at the door to see it.
Not surprisingly, my children are the area of my life where this rings most true. Adoption was not part of our original plan, and raising children with special needs was certainly not part of the plan. I will not say that I have never grieved for a more "normal" or easier parenting experience, because that would just be a lie, but I will say that I wouldn't trade my children or our life together for anything. If you've never read Emily Perl Kingsley's "Welcome to Holland," it's about as perfect a summation of those feelings as I could imagine.
I know that God has equipped me for this task, but sometimes I forget. OK, LOTS of times I forget. I fully believe that some of the toughest parts of raising these amazing, challenging little people may give rise to the most precious moments of the journey. I pray that God will lend me the wisdom and patience to wait joyfully and be thankful even in the circumstances that wear on my very last nerve.