For over a year now, I’ve been doing the daily Joy Dares encouraged by Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. Each day, I—together with my husband, whom I call The Coach—find three gifts we are grateful for based on a list of prompts free for downloading at http://www.aholyexperience.com/joy-dares/.
The Joy Dares have taught my heart to find the thanks through thick and thin, through sick and sin. Today, the challenge is to find three gifts that are hard to give thanks for. For the “radical thanks of Christ”—to give thanks for “both the bread and the nails”—means that when I breathe in the hard, I also breathe out thanks. This is eucharisteo—thanksgiving that is offered graciously, rooted in the Greek charis, which means grace, all the more precious because it is undeserved and unmerited. It is a form of worship. We thank in spite of, for gratitude is rooted in joy, not happiness.
1. Not having our prayers answered.
To this day, The Coach and I cannot remember in detail how we had decided to follow Christ full-time in ministry with Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Perhaps it was late last year? Early this year? Ours was a casual conversation. Nothing about it stands out in our memory. I think we were sitting in the dining room or maybe we were about to go to sleep when The Coach said, “I want to go into full-time ministry. Would you like to join me?” I said yes. And that was that.
Perhaps it was because the arc of The Coach’s life shows no other culmination than this: to love his basketball coaches and athletes more profoundly. I have witnessed his increasing commitment to the spiritual and emotional growth of his players, how his adoptive father’s heart had made him a true Game Changer, if we call life a game.
But the road leading to here was pockmarked with scars. The Coach had to have his heart broken and reshaped as the prayers he asked of God were turned down. I bled with him as again and again God shattered The Coach’s 19-year dream that in some ways has almost, almost defined him as a coach.
We had asked God to grant The Coach his desires. God answered, “I can do better.”
So here we are, poised for another adventure. Doors had to be closed for our finite eyes to find “the narrow gate.” We are thankful, oh so thankful, that God is bigger than our desires.
2. Not being allowed to stay in our comfort zone.
God isn’t a fan of comfort zones.
When Abraham (then Abram) heeded God’s call for him to leave the rich, comfortable land of Ur, he led his family into the unknown. It was a step based on realities he could not see. “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whether he went” (Hebrews 11:8).
I realize: We cannot walk the talk in our comfort zone. There is no growth in stasis.
So this is how The Coach and I begin the rest of our days. We say “yes” to barely nothing in the bank account. We say “yes” to not knowing the “how” and “how much” of things. We say “yes” to realities we cannot see. We say “yes” to the Who—to the eigo eimi, the great I Am.
Our thanks for today: that Jesus left his comfort zone and stepped into our mess of a world. He could have foregone Gethsemane, but he went ahead with it anyway. This is the relentless grace of the Cross.
3. Not winning the Lotto.
God can shower us with a financial windfall. Easy-peasy. But if He had, how could The Coach and I have experienced who He is? Time and again, God has filled in the blanks. Each time we needed something, He delivers, often through friends or family who had no knowledge of our need or wish. Early this year, for instance, The Coach and I had carefully set aside P3,000 for a weekend in Subic Bay with our daughter Anna and our caregiver Ate Vic. But our bank, without warning, imposed bank charges of P2,700. The Coach was upset; our plans for Anna and Ate were shot, and all we could do was pray. But God wasn’t finished with our day yet. On the same afternoon, a friend sent us a message out of the blue: would we perhaps like to use her gift certificate at a Subic hotel?
As we prepare for our FCA adventure, people ask us, what will you do for money? The Coach replies, as children of the King of Kings, we are given access to all His riches. Such riches that we rely on are not so much the pesos and centavos, but the sacrificial love, overwhelming majesty, and reliable hope that we have in Jesus.
To live by faith is pretty much like John Burroughs’ Zen-like philosophy: The Coach and I will leap, and God’s net will appear.