Life can be unkind. I have had my share of sufferings, as I am sure most people have. If we are not careful, we can let a bitterness seep in.
I know bitterness, the lack of trust, looking at the world with cynicism. Part of my sufferings have done this to me. They made me look at the world through hurt. When we are not careful, this bitterness can seep into everything. Your husband leaves his laundry on the floor. You perceive he doesn’t respect you, or want to help you. Bitter. Your kids say, “momma” every five seconds pulling you in all directions. You are unappreciated. Bitter. Your friend gets an awesome new car. Of course she did, you’ll never get anything new. Bitter.
I found myself getting stuck there too often. When my friend was murdered, most people would say that should make you even more bitter. But for me, that was the turning point. I can’t control others, but with God’s help, I can control my reaction. I started to recall some of the great stories of people I had read or heard about. What made them great? What made them different? They were thankful. They were thankful, even when it was hard.
One story that always stuck in my mind was the story of Corrie ten Boom. In THE HIDING PLACE. Corrie and her sister, Betsy, were in a German Nazi Concentration Camp. Their barracks was flea infested. They had managed to smuggle a bible in. Her sister decided they needed to be thankful. Her sister insisted that they Thank God for the fleas, Corrie is opposed, but at the urging of her sister, gives in and offers up a prayer thanking God for the fleas. Over the next few months, the women in the barracks began to notice that the guards never entered their barracks. This not only allowed the women to have bible studies in their concentration camp, but it spared them from being raped and assaulted. Only toward the end do you discover that the guards did not enter the barracks because of the fleas. Thankful for the fleas. What a thought.
I looked around my nice home, at all the things that made me bitter; the dishes in the sink; the endless laundry. I thought of what those things meant. They meant that my home was full. It was full of people who loved me. Who shared meals with me. Who played in the dirt and laughed. Why was I so angry at those things? I had forgotten how to be thankful. Thankful, even when it was hard, even in the tedium. I made a decision. I decided to focus on the things that I loved, instead of the things that bothered me. That husband who left his laundry on the floor every day, well he got up went to work, and provided for his family. He hugs me when I cry. Those children, well, I couldn’t imagine a silent house without the word, “momma”. What a blessing they are. That friend, in the new car, cried with you when your friend was murdered, and she will drive you anywhere you need to go in that new car.
I started to see that suffering was not the worst thing in the world that could happen to me. We spend hours trying to avoid suffering and to no avail, because it always catches us. I believe the worst thing that could happen would be for me to be sinful and mean. We should spend hours trying to love others, rather than tear them down. When I am bitter, I become selfish, I snap at people. I hurt the ones I love.
I thought of Jesus. He loves completely. So much that He gave His life for us. In the Catholic Church, He left us Himself in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. His Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity, right here on earth for us to receive heaven on earth from Him. We receive His ultimate sacrifice, the Gift of Himself. It is no coincidence that Eucharist means, Thanksgiving. Being thankful makes us spread joy and love. I am nowhere near where I need to be, but my eyes have been opened. I choose Thanksgiving. I choose Love.