Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall tells a story in her book The History of Germany about the emperor Charles the Fifth. Charles fought numerous religiously motivated battles, and was largely victorious, but when he grew old he tired of ruling. So he stepped down as king, dividing his lands among others to rule. Then he retired to the monastery San Yuste in Spain, and devoted himself to his life-long hobby: Clocks. In particular, he spent much of his time trying to make two clocks keep time with each other. This he found to be more difficult than imagined. It was so difficult in fact that he finally gave up on the task. In the end he is said to have remarked, “I cannot even make two clocks keep time together, and yet I set myself to force a million souls to conform to one belief.”
How do you get everyone to conform to one belief? You don’t. Even in a single congregation you’re going to find people representing different perspectives on issues, and entertaining different interpretations of the Bible. Charles apparently thought this was a bad thing. I’ve come to believe that it’s one of God’s greatest blessings! And it makes me wonder, with Thanksgiving fast approaching, what other “bad things” in my life are also unrecognized blessings? So I’d like to make a short list of 10 blessings that I sometimes forget are blessings.
1. I’m thankful for the differing opinions I find among my friends, for they make my life interesting.
2. I’m thankful for problems and hardships, for they motivate me to grow.
3. I’m thankful I don’t always get what I want, for I’m often better off without it.
4. I’m thankful for the mistakes I make, for they teach me something valuable.
5. I’m thankful for weeks when everything goes wrong, for they help me appreciate the weeks when everything goes right.
6. I’m thankful for winter, for it fills the world with beauty.
7. I’m thankful I’m growing older, for it improves my perspective and clarifies my values.
8. I’m thankful for the pain of losing a loved one, for it’s the price I must pay for love.
9. I’m thankful for our yearly Stewardship Campaign, for it reminds me to live my faith financially as well as spiritually.
10. And I’m thankful I get to write a “Pastor’s Column” once a month, for it reminds me to think about all the “bad things” in my life that are also blessings.
This year, let’s look beyond the obvious and give God thanks for all those unpleasant things that really enrich us in the end. What’s on your list? What “bad things” in your life are you thankful for?