So I finally (finally!) finished Ann Voskamp's spiritual memoir One Thousand Gifts. This one took me a while; it's one of those books that changes you in the reading of it, and so I couldn't really read it faster than my soul was capable of changing.
Which... is... s.l.o.w.l.y.
But anyway, I finished it, and it's a wonderful celebration of the sovereignty of God; doxological Calvinism, like Piper at his finest. The prose is stunning in some places, tough slogging in others, but the whole book is well worth the effort.
Voskamp burrows deep into the concept of gratitude, finding it to be a way of looking at just about everything about the gospel and the Christian life. Her claims about gratitude seem a little over-the-top, but I keep looking for parts of the Bible that aren't about gratitude in some way or other, and I'm having a surprisingly difficult time of it. She's right; it's everywhere.
Unsurprisingly, I'm most deeply moved and convicted by the parts where she talks about parenting. I keep coming back to the scene where her boys are squabbling and being all-around little sinners to one another, and she chooses to practice the "hard eucharisteo" of giving thanks to God for them, right there in the middle of it. And God transformed the situation into something beautiful.
It's hard to work up the courage to try this at home. Frankly, it's terrifying, and completely unpredictable, because thanking God for my children as they are means loosening my white-knuckled grip on the beautiful little golden image of what they're supposed to be.
Thanking God for my children means trusting God with them. It also means loving them aright. Augustine tells us to enjoy God alone, merely using everything else as a means through which to enjoy God. I never quite understood what he was getting at until now, but I'm convinced that this is what he meant, and that he's right. It's only when I'm thanking God for my children that I'm truly loving them; the rest of the time I'm only really loving what they can do for me. Perhaps all our loves really boil down into either a love of self or a love of God.
When I thank God for my children, I am loving God through them. And when I love God through them, I am loving them more deeply and truly and fully than I ever can when I think I'm thinking only about them. And Jesus takes this love and breaks it and multiplies it, and this is when the the miracles happen.
It's terrifying, because none of it adds up, none of it's anything I can make happen, and none of it's anything I can take any credit for. This thanksgiving before the miracle is a leap of faith, but beyond the dying of the mustard seed, there is shade for rest, and birds sing overhead. From the golden blossoms there grow new seeds, and I gather them up with the memory of mountains moved. As little as I know about tomorrow, it will certainly require yet more faith.
Michael Symmons Roberts*
15 hours ago