Life gets a little scary sometimes.
I think about it a lot. So much can change overnight, and we always just assume things will continue to follow our expectations. I think about the lay-offs in tech, and the Silicon Valley Bank bail out. I think of how many people are posting on LinkedIn about making out their credit cards (is that even real?). I think about how even people who have taken a traditional career trajectory are having issues in the professional space, due largely to monolithic corporations in the United States manipulating policy to continue to favor their key stakeholders through lobbying efforts.
I don’t know many people under forty who can afford their own house, or even their own apartment in an urban area. I don’t know many people who have been able to climb the corporate ladder without some kind of help or extra connection, and I don’t know how most millennials are expected to want to start a family when wages haven’t continued to match the rising costs of homes, goods, and services.
In a world where there is so much certainty, it can be hard to hold space for gratitude. Logically, the news bombards us with a never-ending cacophony of negativity.
When I get overwhelmed with how much appears to be going wrong, I often think about what’s going right, and some advantages millennial may have over previous generations, in spite of the pervasive (and seemingly never-ending) economic uncertainty, and I think about a hope that lives outside of time and within the guise of faith. God.
Although the world seemingly continues to have problem after problem, placing my hope and trust in a God that talks about the world’s innate corruption gives me some hope about the future. After all, Jesus called us to be, ‘the salt and light of the Earth.’ Why do people who claim to follow Christ continue to accept such unacceptable behavior in the church? Why are we so concerned about other people’s ‘sin,’ when we legitimately have politicians such as Nancy Pelosi, (initially elected to be public servants) voting on their own raises, and using their policy knowledge to increase their own wealth, unchecked? Why do we allow larger corporations to continue to produce harmful environmental products in the name of cheap consumerism?
I can’t even begin to fathom why someone’s sexual preferences are spoken about within the four walls of the church buildings more than the aforementioned issues. But here’s the beautiful part about Christianity: Jesus compared himself to a doctor and stated he comes not for the healthy, but for the sick. (Matthew 2:17). So, unfortunately, we can expect people both in and out of the church to continue to make choices that leave us feeling hopeless and forlorn. And, when we’re in that space: when both our community and the world at-large lets us down, where can we look to for gratitude?
We place our hope in things above rather than things below
Although we are wholly imperfect, there is a perfect spirit that can dwell within us. That being the Holy Spirit, the fruit of which is, ‘love, joy, peace, gentleness, kindness, and self-control.’ Although I believe in surrounding yourself with people who love God, and love one another, I think it’s even more important for you to give yourself space to interpret what God is saying to you on your own journey. For some people, that could look like yoga. And, no, I don’t think yoga means you’re worshipping Hindu spirits, and if you are already filled with the Holy Spirit, you can not be overcome by something that is not of God.
For others, that could look like time spent journaling, fasting and praying. Still others may need to go outside and take a look at God’s creation. After all, the Bible says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.” Psalm 19:1-6 NIV. I find when I create space to go outside, I often feel as if existence, no matter how grim things look, is a privilege. We have this beautiful and amazing world where we can see birds fly, where DNA gives us the exact structures we need for our cells to form, and where ocean tides are controlled by a marvelous moon.
And, even though millennials in the United States, witnessing 9/11, war after war being fought overseas, the advance of technology and multiple recessions; we can look at some of the beauty in this world, be grateful for the little things. Like, when a friend shows up serendipitously to go thrift shopping with you, or when you end up noticing the flowers on the way to the subway. The little things may not change the money you have available in your bank account or the way the economy appears to look, but looking for, ‘the little gratitudes,’ helps us to create space for the larger gratitudes to enter our lives.
And, ultimately, God’s kingdom is perfect. And, He gave Peter the, ‘keys to the kingdom.’ Is it too much of a stretch to believe that when we operate out of love and gratitude we could be spreading the love embedded within God’s perfect kingdom here on Earth? If God is love, as it says in 1 John 4: 7-21, than is it so crazy to believe that when we operate out of love for one another we are opening doors to God’s Kingdom for others? And, if we aren’t cultivating a space for gratitude and love within our own heart, how can we pour this gift out to others?
I also want to be honest
I am so sick of the unholy matrimony of the broader church within the USA to the Republican Party in the United States. We can no longer as believers accept the corruption that permeates the entire political system. Neither a Republican or Democratic nominee is going to fix the growing disparity between the wealthy elite and the twenty-five percent of the country that have less than $100,000 set aside for retirement. And, I say this with full confidence because the people we nominate are typically, in fact part of the top five percent promoting policies that will continue to benefit their interests. We spend so much time in the church promoting political ideology that we forget the real reason Jesus came to Earth (and Jesus was in fact Jewish)- to reconcile a fallen people with God, through his love, and grace. Not to control a population. Not to regulate birth control standards. Not too, ‘pray away the gay.’ But to take us as ‘wholly us,’ and transform us through this unconditional love from people in pain to people who can love unconditionally.
But to reconcile us to God, and change the world through love. Sin literally means, ‘misses the mark.’ It’s not this big scary thing. It’s a facet and unavoidable part of being human. And, sometimes sin can lead to pain. And pain sucks. But it’s part of life, and when we place our hope and trust in God, we can look beyond the crumbling world systems and structures, and up to the Kingdom of God: which is driven by love, unmerited favor, and reconciliation.
Today, what are you grateful for?
When I think of how to conclude this, I think about what I am actually grateful for. I am so grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to travel. I am grateful for the flowers I passed on Union Square on the way to the cafe in Soho where I’m writing this. I am grateful for the friends who have been supporting me in an immeasurable amount of ways since I went through a rather painful and unexpected break up. I am grateful for the family I have that continues to communicate with me even though I live in another state. I am grateful whenever I notice the creativity of the human mind, and the power of thought around me. I am grateful when I think about the small and wonderful protein structures that send signals to our cells and develop our body. I am grateful for the moon and the command it wields over the oceans. I am grateful for my ability to notice these small things. I am grateful for friends who have frank conversations about mental healthy, and open up about their own experiences. I am grateful for my body’s ability to kickboxing, and my health. I am grateful for the students I have enrolled in my program, and I am grateful for all of this opportunity. Although existence can be stressful, overwhelming and more than a little difficult, I am grateful for existing- and for this opportunity to explore a world called Earth.
What are you grateful for?