Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Almost . . . Grateful

After signing off last night, I felt somewhat smug I guess, because I had just gotten swearing off my chest and managed to be funny about it. (At least Stacey thought so. Thank you, Stacey.) Then it hit me that I had completely neglected to say anything about the last part of my intro verse, Ephesians 5.4--the part about substituting thanksgiving for crassness and nonsense.

Apostle-Paul just kind of slips that in there. You might not even notice. On Sunday when we talked about it, I posited that gratitude is presented as an antidote to lazy speech because lazy speech usually focuses on the negative, and if we are instead focusing on thanking God for stuff, it's harder to be negative.

Then Phone-Company-Ray phoned this morning. He is, clearly, the one on whom Phone-Company-Andrew dumps his less pleasant duties. Perhaps Phone-Company-Andrew didn't want to have to admit to me that he isn't as omnipotent as he billed himself to be, but the fact that he has someone to whom to delegate the message implies that he still wields some sort of power. I've never met this poor Ray fellow.

Anyway, Ray was calling to tell me that my little outpost-town is "not close enough" to the Phone Company's "central headquarters," but that they are "constantly upgrading," and if they "upgrade to our area" within "the next six months," they'll give us a call. All that to say that DSL is out. Oh expletive. Roommate-Sarah says, "I could have told them that." And there was that part of me that knew she was right in her skepticism days ago, but I was trying so hard to be hopeful, which is something that both does and doesn't come naturally to me at all. So it's still a blow.

This just adds to the feeling I've been operating under lately, that my life is a series of "almosts." I almost meet guys who almost like me enough to date me; I almost get promoted; I almost get published; I almost get DSL. And when you feel like that, it's hard to feel grateful. A better defense seems to be to get extra bitter and start swearing, or to get really really funny. Or both. Never mind that neither of those actually are better defenses. Sometimes feeling safe is enough. Gratitude isn't safe because it's so closely tied to hope, and hope, in my experience, is so easily crushed. Which means I am.

When I try to be grateful in the face of "almosts," what I come up with are things like this:

  1. Well, at least I have dial-up--and a computer--which still allows me to post things here and write to my friends.
  2. Well, at least I'm not with the wrong person.
  3. Well, at least I've got a good relationship with my family.
  4. Well, at least I'm not starving to death or living in a wartorn country (although just by being an American I suppose I am contributing to the war tearing at some countries).

All of these things are really and truly things to be grateful for, and I would like to be grateful for them, and if I keep thinking about it, I'll probably get to that point. But the way I'm thinking about them initially doesn't really add up to gratitude. It feels more like making excuses. If gratitude is the prescribed remedy for crassness, then it seems like it needs to be bigger and stronger and more glorious than the simpering stuff that often passes for it. Maybe something like what Christy (who has lived through more horror and angst than I can dream of) says and demonstrates in a recent post. Maybe something like the young African-American woman who used to come to our store would say every time we asked her how she was: "Blessed."

That can be said tritely and as an excuse. It can be a way to avoid and push down our darkness. Or it can be a defining word, said in the face of obstacles no one else knows about, one that you grab onto with both hands and maybe your teeth because it's true even when the broken world is trying to shake your foundations. Or even just when battling the "almosts."

10 comments:

Mark Goodyear said...

Jenn, you said, "If gratitude is the prescribed remedy for crassness..."

(Well, first I have to confess that I secretly like colorful language. Which feels much worse than just struggling with it. And not to condone bad language, either.)

Also, I've heard plenty of people be crass in their gratitude. Someone they like is *expletive* awesome, for example.

I do hope you can get the internet connection you want. Here's hoping and praying you will!

Annelise said...

Was Paul actually saying "Be thankful for stuff"? or just "Be thankful"--meaning for who God is in the midst of the stuff?

GreekGeek said...

I hear you on feeling like an "almost" -- I read a book a few years back ("Calm my Anxious Heart" - cheesy title, but good book), and one of the early on exercises hit me and I have always kept it handy since. She had the reader list all the positives and negatives in their life and then contemplate which one they focus on. Mine at that point was the negatives list, which consisted nearly entirely of things I didn't have and wanted, while the positives were nearly entirely things I had or had experienced. It was interesting for me to see. Anyway, I relate and liked this post... Thanks for sharing!

Jenn said...

Mark--well, okay, sometimes I secretly like it, too. And you're right about the crass gratitude thing. ("Crassitude"?) I guess I'm still just not sure it's condone-able.

Also, I would hate anyone to think that a slow internet connexion is what I consider to be one of the most heinous things in life. It's just that it was kind of disappointing, which reminded me of some other disappointments, which launched this post.

Mom--Okay, you're right of course. But sometimes our ability (or maybe I mean my ability) to see and acknowledge who God is in the midst of stuff is proportionate to the stuff. I'm not saying it should be like that. I'm just saying it is.

Mariam--thanks for getting it. Sounds like a good exercise. I'll have to try it. Meanwhile stay tuned for an upcoming post about an exercise that got set me yesterday instead.

L.L. Barkat said...

Jenn, so I see you are still coining words... "crasstitude" ... I guess it is the week of "tude" coined words!

Gratitude would be a good remedy for crassness, I think. Because gratitude gets us looking at who to be thankful to, for what we've been given. And this, hopefully, promotes a sense of love. And love is not crass, because it values and respects...

I like your thoughts... deep.

Jenn said...

LL--a week of coinitude, perhaps. (Nah. That sounds like lots of spare change.)

I liked YOUR thoughts on this. Thanks for commenting.

Annelise said...

I actually think every human being is waiting for something—life is a series of almosts for all of us. I’m not sure how we deal with it, but I think it is a common human condition. And most of us forget who God is in the midst of the stuff.

Jenn said...

Mom--yeah, true. I'm not claiming to be unique in this. I'm just claiming to write about it. ;)

Mark Goodyear said...

Crassitude is hilarious!

On the one hand, I agree completely agree with your mom about being thankful in general.

On the other hand, I think God redeems us both spiritually and physically. He redeems our thoughts and motives and souls and spirits. But he also redeems our bodies and our meals and our clothing and our stuff.

And, yes, even our internet connections.

I really believe that God cares about the nuts and bolts of our ordinary lives.

And I don't think I can condone foul language either. Darn it.

Jenn said...

Mark--I believe God cares, too. But maybe not in the same way we do. Or not with the same results we would effect if we could.

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