Our Stories Tell a Bigger Story
“Thank God I don’t look like what I’ve been through!”
The first time I heard it I laughed out loud. I was driving to Sunday worship with the radio cranked up full-volume to the local gospel music station. The host, a fierce woman with the on-air persona of a warrior, shouted it in agreement with a caller who was giving God thanks for always making a way and bringing him out of trouble.
I laughed because I immediately understood what she meant. I shouted “Amen!” out loud to no one in particular. And then tears began to flow. Thank God I don’t look like what I’ve been through!
Sparing you the gory details, there’s no telling what I would look like. But I promise it would not be pretty. One thing I’ll say without hesitation: once that seed was planted, it has continued to produce a profound sense of thanksgiving in me—the kind of thanksgiving that provokes awe and humility and jubilation and effusiveness.
Biblical psalms of thanksgiving pivot on similar emotions. The poets are shamelessly grateful they don’t look like what they’ve been through. In some cases, their poems are hymns intended for the entire community to sing together. In others, they express personal gratitude for God’s mercy and goodness. Some of the thankful psalms are longwinded and rather exaggerated (even melodramatic) in their enthusiasm. Others border on gut-wrenching in their raw recognition of how saving grace and deliverance changed their lives.
All thanksgiving psalms testify. They describe a singular journey from lamentable life seasons of disorientation and despair and resolve in recognition of divine help. Yet they touch common nerves and resound with common themes. These accounts are shaped for sharing. The psalmists realize their stories take shape and accrue power when they’re told… or prayed… or sung.
“Thank God I don’t look like what I’ve been through” presumes others are getting a good look at you and seeing beauty, composure, confidence, health—all the things that belie the struggles behind your testimony. It assumes folks are interested in your story because they either a) have their own stories to tell or b) need to hear stories from folks lived to tell the tale.
Our course, our gratitude pleases God. But it also reaches us in ways that only testimony can. We are living proof of divine grace. Our personal stories tell a bigger, shared story. We belong to God and one another and whatever details may give our thanksgiving unique features and texture, our gratitude resounds with the same theme: Thank God we don’t look like what we’ve been through. Amen and ashé!
Don’t miss this week’s conversation about thanksgiving as we continue our series, Praying the Psalms. We meet live online every Thursday at 7:30p CDT via Zoom:
Meeting ID: 564 427 274
You can also phone in at 1-312-626-6799, using the same meeting ID and password.
We need your help!
As we think about the future of Gather, please let us know what gifts you bring and would like to share with the community. There are many roles that have to come together to make Gather happen every week. This includes setup, technical support, worship, managing handouts and information, coordinating drinks, and teardown. We need your help. Please let us know what type of service you’d be interested in!
Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea
As we prepare to become a vibrant worshipping community, we invite you to enjoy a Spotify playlist that captures the kind of worship we hope to embrace. Give it a spin while you’re driving. Make it your workout jam. Add it to your devotional time. Most of all, feel yourself becoming part of a sacred village of believers who love their God and one another!
Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.