How do you feel when you’re bombarded by perfection, every day, 24-7? How do you feel when you see perfect people – 60-year-old women with flawless skin, size zero bodies, and faces that would make Helen of Troy look like an old hag? Or what about when you hear of people making seven-figure incomes and stocking up on gold and silver or buying an island in the South Pacific just for something to do with all of their spare change? How about when you see “perfect” families – 2.5 exceptionally well-behaved children with IQ’s of 150 and 4.0 GPA’s – and two parents who still hold hands and gaze into each other’s eyes after 35 years? How do you feel when you see people celebrating the holidays, joyfully singing carols with dozens of family and friends while sitting in front of a perfectly-browned turkey in a custom-built log cabin decorated entirely in Martha Stewart Thanksgiving.
Maybe not so good – or grateful.
Our society is saturated with “perfect” and, for the most part, completely unrealistic situations involving ideal people, families, careers, finances – you name it and it’s out there. By “out there,” I mean on television, in magazines, on the internet, on billboards – everywhere you look. And unless we turn off all media and never go anywhere, we can’t escape it. And who does that?
The fact is that when we’ve spent our whole lives being inundated with the Big Lie – “you can and should be perfect” – it’s hard to look at our own faulty lives and be grateful.
What if we don’t look like a rock star? What if we’re overweight or have wrinkles or thinning hair? What’s the message? “Fix it!” What if we don’t make six figures and have money to spend on gold, silver, cruises, winter homes in Florida or a brand new Lexus? What if we’re just barely making ends meet – or not even? What if we don’t even have a job? What if we don’t have the perfect family, all gathered together for the holidays – families who get along and laugh and care about each other? What if our families are split up and live in different places or our family members won’t even speak to one another? What if our “perfect” children or parents or relatives – aren’t?
Sometimes around the holidays, it’s easy to get the impression that we got the short end of the stick or that something has gone very wrong because we don’t have all of the above. Somehow, during the holidays, everything that we don’t have or weren’t born with or haven’t achieved can suddenly seem so much more obvious – and excruciating. It’s no wonder that this time of year mental health pros are so much busier. People are depressed because the culture paints us a picture of how things “should” be. But they’re not. So maybe we don’t have the big house in the wealthy neighborhood. That’s okay.
I remember one particular day many years ago when I was crying up a storm at not having a home of my own (like everyone else I knew). I was sobbing, the mascara was running and suddenly, in the midst of the pity party I was hosting, the Lord spoke to me.
“Look around your living room,” He said. “How big would you say it is?”
This can’t be good, I thought. It’s not like He doesn’t know.
“I don’t know. Maybe 18’ x 20’.”
“Do you know how many people in the world would give their right arms for a place that big? Do you know how many entire families in the world live in a total space not even that big?”
After that little chat, I wasn’t crying anymore. Instead, I’d learned a huge lesson: it’s not about what we don’t have; it’s about what we do have.
Compared to 90% of people in the rest of the world, Americans have it pretty good. Besides food, shelter and clothing, we have clean water at the touch of a tap, heat and hot water, and – although many kids complain about it – free K-12 education. Plus, in addition to the many material things that people in other countries don’t have access to, we also have freedoms – to speak, to worship, to assemble, and to make choices in our lives that the citizens of many other countries don’t have the privilege of making for themselves or for their children.
We take so much for granted.
But today, I’m grateful for so much: for God, my country and my family (imperfect as we all are), my home, the food we have every day, my job, my friends – I am so blessed. So this Thanksgiving, my prayer is that the Lord will bless you and your family, many times over.
More importantly, on this day of thanks, may we be truly grateful and may we bless the Lord for all that He has given us.