I’ll never forget the scene burned into my memory. Our driver slowed to a crawl as we traveled down the South African mountains on the way to the Eastern Cape. A truck filled with kernels of corn had overturned.
From my cushioned seat I stared through the glass windows, holding my breath.
Tears threatened the corners of my eyes while I watched men and women from the township rushing to scrape as much corn, mingled with dirt, as they could into baskets before retreating back down the mountain. Food for starving stomachs.
It is this image. And the image of impoverished children, barefoot in 40-degree weather. And the image of a woman with AIDs left to die in her one-room shack of corrugated metal walls and dirt floors. It’s these images burning like fire in my mind when ingratitude seeps into my heart.
Because where Africa touches the Indian Ocean, the scars of heartbreak are etched into the faces of men and women who live there.
I witnessed the unbelievable. The confusing for this American-with-more-than-her-hands-can-hold. So many of their souls poured out more joy than I knew what to do with. Songs of pure praise seeped through cracked and crumbling church walls. Rich voices with empty hands lifted toward the heavens.
How is it those with nothing teach me everything? About life? About gratitude?
Joy wasn’t an expression of their circumstances—I’m under no illusion their lives were easy. The trail of poverty left deep wrinkles and sagging shoulders. Yet, their joy was genuine. From the deep places.
Joy was an expression of their thanksgiving. Their gratitude for grace. Grace. The soft pillow we land on when we don’t get what we deserve.
Grace. The gift God lavishes.
Because His grace is enough. Enough for a thousand Thanksgivings. The one thing which can’t be stripped away by circumstances or tragedy. Grace remains.
There are days when life is smooth and thanksgiving is easy.
But then there are days when life is a pot-holed road and we’re tripped up by the thanksgiving. Because maybe we struggle to see the happy. The joy. Maybe we’re plagued by the dark days of depression or loss. Thanksgiving just seems so far away.
Until I remember grace. The undeserved grace poured out from nail pierced hands and feet.
Last night I struggled—hands plunged in the soapy, greasy water of a kitchen sink. Snarky and sarcastic, I wonder, What am I thankful for today, Jesus? A migraine plaguing me off and on for over a week? My children threatening to rip each other apart in the other room? Having to pack too much stuff we don’t need for a three-day trip? Snapping at Prince Charming every five minutes?
A heart of grumbling has no room for gratitude.
So standing at the sink, hot water running, the word grace washed over my soul. And I knew. I knew that on some days, grace is all we have. Grace is enough. And the miracle? It opens the door to Thanksgiving.
Grace is there, even when nothing else is left. Gratitude takes root in grace. And Gratitude brings forth joy.
Are you struggling with Thanksgiving this year? Digging deep and still left hollow with platitudes? Begin with grace. You may not get any further than that. You may not need to. Because grace is enough.