Every spring, for the last three years, I’ve read the book “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. The first two years I loved the book and felt really challenged by the idea of “Euchristo.” The idea of counting gifts, and seeing God’s hand as the great Giver.
Last spring, I even wrote out on the inside cover my interpretation of the book. This was helpful because it’s an incredibly profound book, and because I can sometimes get lost in her poetic writing style. Here’s what I wrote on February 24th, 2012…
“Jesus took the bread, gave thanks and broke it…”
Did He thank the Father for the bread? Or for the whole night?
For the friends who wouldn’t betray Him?
Or even for those who would?
And in giving thanks and making lists…
The Euchristo List: “Thank you God, for this gift of __________. I like it.”
The Hard Euchristo List: “Thank you God for this ___________. I don’t like it. But, I trust You.”
I know that others might have an entirely different interpretation of what Ann Voskamp is saying. But this was my best guess at the essence of her book one year ago. That God’s grace is known deeper through the gratitude we list, whether on paper or on heart. Whether in sickness or in health. Whether for richer or for poorer. As we’re growing better or as we’re getting worse. And in acknowledging the gifts, it is a way we live in the grace, and live out the grace, of our covenant relationship with God.
Why am I saying all of this? Well, reading the book for the third time this spring was an entirely different experience. For one, because the book was built upon the wounds and suffering of the loss of a child…Ann’s baby sister. I ache for her family, and now know more acutely, the agony they have suffered. And two, after the wounds and suffering of burying my own child…I know exactly how desperate I am. Desperate for God. Desperate for good. And desperate to see that God is still the great wooer of our souls…even when what He has given me is the sickness. The poorer. The worse. And even…the death…of my son.
And so, knee-deep in the cess pool of grief…I started making yet another “1,000 Gifts” list. I’ve made lots of lists before, and I think they really do help. But this list is different. This list has rules. At least ten a day. Every day. Texted to a friend. No exceptions. And always at least one “Hard Euchristo” included on the list.
Some days it takes me a profoundly long time to come up with ten things I’m thankful for in the moment. Ten evidences of grace. Ten reminders of God’s presence and goodness. Ten tangible ways I’ve seen His face, His heart, and His hands. And on the days when the list making is the hardest…that’s when it’s felt the most necessary to write it. But no matter how easy the list comes, it’s always a sacrifice of praise right now. It’s a sacrifice because just beneath the surface of every list…is the deep sadness of the hard euchristo buried below it.
Sophie’s delight in chasing them.
Freddo exclaiming, “Mommy, we’re sending these bubbles to Charlie in Heaven!”
Driving along the sparkling Pacific coast.
That moment on a road trip when you look back and see your little cherub has finally dozed off.
Looking back and seeing our precious kids safe and snuggled in the car. Wait, one seat is empty…
I list, and I list, and I list…and then suddenly, each time, I am stopped by the reality of Charlie’s death. The reality of the hardest thing God has ever given. And it reminds me yet again of why we make the lists. Because if I don’t…I also miss the bubbles. I miss the joy on Sophie’s face at seeing them. I miss the simple sweetness of the road trip. I miss the reality of the three kids I have been given today with. And eventually…I’ll miss the whole life I have left.
Never, in a million years, would I have chosen for the darkest valley of my entire life to come smack in the middle of my kids happy childhood. But if we don’t take ALL of this as a gift…we miss all of it. When we skip the dark night of the crucifixion, we miss something of the beauty of the resurrection, and even the beauty just before it. The warm, unleavened bread. The starry Passover night. The fellowship with His friends. But which friends? The faithful friend in John. The someday-to-prove-faithful-again friend in Simon Peter. And what about the unfaithful friend in Judas? Do we list even him?
What would have happened if Judas hadn’t betrayed Jesus? What would have happened if Pilate hadn’t handed Him over? What would have happened if the Jewish crowds and the Roman soldiers hadn’t crucified Him? What would have happened without the hard euchristo in the life of Jesus?
Well, I wouldn’t be sitting here today making a list. I wouldn’t be sitting here free from the curse of sin and the power of death. I wouldn’t be sitting here with confident expectation of meeting my baby someday in the presence of Christ. I wouldn’t even know Him.
Maybe, just maybe, what Jesus was thanking the Father for that night was all of it…because all of it was His. His will. His to make happen or His to have willingly stopped. His to be glorified in. That is, after all, what Jesus taught us to pray for…Thy will be done.
And maybe, in even the deepest sorrows of our lives…seeing His goodness and nearness in the midst of all of it gives us the courage to say to Him all over again…
For my better or my worse. For richer or for poorer. In heath, and even in sickness and death…I will worship You, as the Giver of every good and perfect gift. I will worship you as the Giver of all of it.
Ever since I was little I had this picture in my mind that one day in Heaven, Jesus would knock on the door of my mansion and say to me, “Come, today is your turn.” And we’d walk together to this amazingly beautiful movie house, and the lights would dim, and the screen would flicker on…and we would watch The Movie together. The Movie of every single moment of my life…from womb to tomb…from His perspective.
And sometimes we would weep together. And sometimes we would laugh. And sometimes He would explain for me in greater detail the scenes of my story that were the hardest for me to understand…
But finally, I’d be able to see all of it…as a gift.