My daughter was having some challenges with her friends at school. There was a new group of girls that had invited her to become part of the group. They went shopping together and spent the night at one of the girl’s houses. They were being typical teenagers and having a great time.
Then, one of the girls confronted her about what “someone” told her about my daughter. This mysterious “someone” told one of the girls that my daughter was only hanging around her new friends so she’d be invited to new places. My daughter had the maturity to laugh and say “No, this isn’t why I want to be friends.” By the way, I have learned that anonymous complaints should be simply ignored. Giving attention to the mysterious and always unnamed “Them” or Some people” only emboldens this childish attempt to control. Ignore “them!”
The advice I gave my daughter has helped me many times. I told her to be upfront with her new friends. Tell them the truth. Don’t hide from conflict or unpleasant conversations. That only leads to passive-aggressive foolishness or abandoning relationships before they’ve been tested for their strength! Tough questions and conversations, facing hard situations head-on, all this is part of being a confident and mature person. Plus, it makes it possible to be thankful and joyful even in tough times!
Look at our Gospel Lesson in Luke 18:31-34:
At that time, Jesus, taking the twelve, said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written of the Son of man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon; they will scourge him and kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things; this saying was hid from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
On this Thanksgiving Day here in the US, what does it take to face moments like this with gratitude and resolve? How do we prepare ourselves to go through these moments well? The key is in this passage. The Lord tells the disciples the truth about what is coming in His life and in their lives as well. The Lord is going to be “shamefully treated” and He is going to be executed. But that’s not the end of His story: He will also rise from the dead on the third day. And yet, His disciples didn’t get it!
To “get” hard news like this requires three characteristics of the serious disciple: First, you have to be open to hearing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken the truth in love to someone and they simply didn’t get it. They weren’t ready to hear what I had to say. To be honest, this has happened to me as well when I wasn’t ready to hear what I needed to hear. Next, you have to trust the one telling you the truth. And this trust has to have reached the level where the very difficult truths being shared can be understood. That takes love, humility, and a necessary amount of time with the Other to have built that kind of trusting relationship. And finally, you have to have a perspective that this is a moment, not an eternity. The Lord’s sufferings and death were not the end of the story, but the disciples missed the temporariness of the hard moment and also missed the joy of the promise of resurrection. They couldn’t grasp the momentary suffering BECAUSE they didn’t get the resurrection!
So today, on this Thanksgiving Day, as they gather with friends and family and eat entirely too much, slump down on that comfy couch to watch a football game, and laugh and celebrate with all our kin, let’s grasp that is truly necessary to develop sufficiently mature gratefulness that can transform our lives. This life of Gratitude will only be deep, mature, and life-changing when I go beyond the temporary moments of a challenge to see the eternal consequences of faithfulness. It is when I get stuck in sorrow that I lose the ability to be grateful. I lose the ability to hear Him, trust Him, and see Him beyond the moment of my immediate pain. Become able to be Grateful, even in dark times, and you will be Orthodox on Purpose.
P.S. We give You Thanks, Christ God, for Your earthly gifts. Do not deprive us of Your heavenly Kingdom. But as You came among Your disciples, O Savior, giving them Your peace, Come also among us and save us. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.