The month of December is an especially reflective time for me – Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and my birthday all hit within about a 30-day span. Another year older, another wiser, another year to reflect on life and the way the road ahead seems to be going.
My pastor once gave a fantastic sermon on marriage, in which he preached on the power of expectation. The problem, he argued, is when we come to expect certain things from our spouse – cleaning the house, fixing a car, grocery shopping, cooking dinner, mowing the lawn – and they become “required” or assumed. When these things become expected, he pointed out, the spouse can no longer show their love by doing them. When it’s taken for granted that a husband is going to work long hours to support his family, he can no longer show his love by doing it – he can only break even in his wife’s eyes. Likewise, when a wife is expected to cook the meals, wash the clothes, clean the house, etc., bathing the kids is no longer seen as an act of love, but a duty. Showing love, therefore becomes, “…and then what?” Sure you’ve done all that, but what are you going to do on top of that to show me that you love me?
Now I’m not married, but the whole time I thought, what a great summation of thankfulness in general and how God shows his love towards us. What I mean is, when we expect God to provide for us – food, shelter, safety, employment, etc. – and these things become assumed, we no longer recognize God showing his love through these things. Instead, it becomes automatically expected and we start thinking, God why didn’t I get that raise? Why did the relationship with that person work out? Why did my mom get cancer? “What have you done for me lately?”
The reality is, God absolutely pours out his love on us every day in ways we don’t necessarily register. Ways we don’t even stop to consider when we count our blessings. (Thank you that my children have clothes. Thank you that my job is an honest one. Thank you that I am able to see. Thank you that I can read. That the road in front of my house is paved. Thank you that my home has an air conditioner.) These are small things, but there are larger things too. “Thank you that I can choose where I want to worship. Thank you that our government changes hands peaceably. Thank you that I have clean drinking water. Thank you that the United States are not at war with each other.”
When we look back over the year in December, it’s human nature to look for the highlights – the ways in which God has gone “above and beyond” to show his love. But too often we are tempted to look over a year’s worth of blessings and think, “God, is that all you’ve got?” without even realizing it. Sometimes we only see a difficult year or a roadblock of negatives and conclude that the blessings are missing.
If Satan ever manages to convince us that God has forgotten us or that God’s love is absent, he has pulled off one of the greatest schemes of all. And the sad thing is, in many cases Satan doesn’t even really have to get involved. We are only too quick to jump to this conclusion on our own.
The truth is, in a world of constant movement, highs, lows and general chaos, seeing God’s love often takes practice. Because I guarantee you that God’s love has shattered whatever feeble blinders we have put on our blessings filter.
As we clear away the turkey and prepare to look back at the end of the month with Auld Lang Syne, maybe what we need to do to truly see God’s love this holiday season isn’t to raise our expectations, but to lower them.