The crescent moon hung over downtown like a Christmas ornament. The arctic air spun around my face like a invisible flame. It was an ordinary Monday night, with a 1/2 mile left to my stroll home. Every breath filled my lungs with protest. And, in an unlikely turn, all my exhales were simply grateful to be there at all.
A good friend of mine wondered aloud recently why there seems to be such a divorce between how we talk about Jesus and the actual stuff of our lives. At first, I thought it was the wrong question. Later, I thought it was a strange question. Nowadays, though, it feels like one of the only questions worth asking at all.
Not unlike you, I'm sure, that separation feels too real. Like maybe my beliefs were married to my life once, but now they're sleeping in separate rooms and don't talk anymore.
Enter September. The previous year, we started a tradition of writing out a 1,000 gifts from our ordinary life that fall. It felt worthwhile, and so we picked it back up this fall. Most of them were silly things, like the sound of coffee brewing, or a well-timed J. Cole song, or smoke billowing from the IDS tower outside our window.
I'm not sure when it happened, but suddenly there I am in the scene of the opening paragraph. Nothing ecstatic about my life. It was a typical Monday night with the high schoolers; it was a typical Minneapolis night with no parking even close to our apartment; it was a typical December night with wind sweeping all the heat off my face. Snobs like me have complained about less.
And yet, on that typical night, all that could come out of my mouth was Thank You.
It was a terrible coup. As we wrote 1,000 things from that fall, latching onto the good stuff in our life, the good things became gifts. As we wrote 1,000 gifts, they slowly conspired until all the gifts in our life became these signposts pointing to the greatest gift we rarely acknowledge: that we are alive at all.
Suddenly, the punishing wind makes me feel nothing but gratitude, not because it feels good but because I am able to feel anything at all.
When you're privileged like me-- you have a roof over your head, you have clothes to wear, and you get the luxury of only praying for "spiritual" daily bread-- what you receive as a gift shrinks under the pressure of immense fortune.
Which is unfortunate, because it is these gifts that might just remarry my beliefs with my life. All these gifts point me to the ultimate gift, which is simply that I'm alive, just as free to curse the ground as I stare astonished at the stars and wonder who I am that God is mindful of me.
And when life finally feels like nothing other than an irrational gift, I am finally free to live out the love of God I believe so many things about.