Recently a statement in a secular magazine caught my eye. It spoke of the importance of practicing acceptance and gratitude in living well with limitations.
It made me think. How does one practice gratitude if one does not believe that God gives all good gifts? Whom does one thank? And what does it look like to practice acceptance as a follower of Jesus Christ?
I have intentionally practiced gratitude much more than acceptance. I am a fighter. I do not give up easily. Acceptance can feel too much like resignation, an acknowledgement of defeat. Or like fatalism – “this is the way it is and there’s nothing I can do about it so why try?” How can I live in eager expectation of God’s intervention while accepting the reality of what is? It’s that word, “reality,” that helps me see. In the moments when I long to practice obstetrics again, it’s hard to keep reality in view. My mind wanders in its own little world, “Maybe if I just worked a couple of half days a week. . . maybe if there was a position that didn’t require night call or surgery. . . maybe. . .”
But the reality is that God is Truth. He works within and through the truth. He always starts from where we are, not from where we wish we were. Healthy, God-centered acceptance faces the facts – both the human limitations of our situation and the power of God’s grace to work all things together for good in ways we can’t imagine.
Mere resignation to my illness would mean giving up hope. Acceptance, a stronger, truer act, is not passive, not merely giving up or giving in, but actively embracing reality in the hope of what God will do in the midst of it. Acceptance lives within my limits, not fighting them. It delights in the gift of space to listen to God’s heartbeat rather than resenting my inability to listen to babies’ heartbeats. Instead of feeling inadequate because I need help, acceptance frees me to receive and enjoy the community God provides.
Acceptance is not merely “coming to terms with something” but is the “act of willingly taking a gift” or the “agreement to an invitation or offer.” (MS Word dictionary) I have a choice. I can cling to dreams of an unreal life and miss the gift of the present. Or I can embrace the life held out to me, receiving with it the God of Truth who delights in working through weakness and bringing beauty out of brokenness.
If I spend all my energy hating the fence and wishing to return to the time when it did not surround me, I’ll fail to see it as the perfect place to plant sunflowers.
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)
Acceptance is gratitude’s sister. Being grateful for daily grace-gifts helps me see the beauty in the life offered to me now. It’s hard to fight something when you see Love’s fingerprints all over it.
Care to join me in embracing whatever shape of life-gift God is holding out to you today?
“See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. . .Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life. . . .”
(Deuteronomy 30:15, 19-20)