There were maybe twenty of us youth together that December evening eight months ago—perhaps a few less; I’m not certain. Together, we had just come through a week-full of meetings at a youth conference, each day, on average, infusing us and the many other attendees with four Biblically-rich, challenging sermons. I don’t know if my sentiments then could express what the others were feeling or not, but I felt full. Spiritually fed, my soul enriched far beyond what I normally encountered in my everyday life. The Lord had shown Himself faithful in the days leading up to that chilly Saturday evening, showing me areas where I wasn’t serving Him to my fullest extent, and overall just drawing me closer to Him.
I felt full. And as I looked around the room at all the other youth—spread across the assortment of couches in the spacious, yet cozy-feeling living room, I felt so blessed to be there. To be able to spend a bit of time with these special people, some of whom were very close friends, some friends from years past, or relatives—and grateful to have shared the enriching week with them.
Someone—our evening’s host, perhaps, who happened to be one of the speakers at the conference—suggested we all write down one thing we really appreciated or were challenged by in the previous week. As we each took time to look back, I know many of us remembered fondly different scenes from the week, and the room grew silent apart from the occasional humming as someone tried to put their thoughts onto paper.
Soon all the papers were gathered up into a plate, mixed together, then passed out randomly, and we each took turns reading what was on our particular note, then tried to guess who had written it. Some of the notes were quite in-depth, with several sentences dedicated to whatever the person was thankful for. One, I remember, simply said “Food!”—it was submitted by a younger guy in the group! While that provided humor for some of us, the thing that really struck me was how many people said they were thankful for the encouragement to be grateful. That was a theme that had been running throughout the different sermons that week, unintentionally (or intentionally by the Lord?) tying together each of the four different speaker’s messages. Although by far that wasn’t the only thing we learned it was one of the most memorable thoughts. And I’d hazard to guess that at least half of us there that night mentioned something to that effect.
Fast forward to last Friday, when I was trialing a new pattern on a jumper (online dictionary says this should properly be called a pinafore—new word usage on me!). The first attempt failed, and it was late that evening when I finished a second top, only to find out that it was way too small as well. To say the least, I wasn’t in the best of moods. Twice, the solution had eluded me, and frankly, I was quite disgusted.
The worst part about it? I had posted on Instagram earlier that afternoon—before, you can be sure, I found out that both attempts weren’t right—saying something about being thankful I could sew. That evening, I wasn’t feeling very thankful.
So yesterday, as I was happily sewing along, making my third try at getting this pinafore top done, I started thinking over what I’d learned at youth conference about being grateful. Then I thought about the gratitude list I had started right about the same time as the two failed attempts…and how, for some inexplicable reason, those two pinafore tops were not included in said list.
Any coincidence? I think not. After all, why would I be thankful for something I was decidedly not grateful for at the moment? Yes, I had appreciated the moment earlier—back when it was (ahem) social media-worthy.
But I knew it was a double standard.
So while, yes, I did write down gratitude for the completed one, I’m going to make sure to add the two failed attempts to the list, too—I learned something from them as well.
Because if there’s one thing I learned from the youth conference, we as God’s temple* have something priceless at our disposal. Back in the Old Testament, under the old law, the tabernacle held something precious: The altar of incense. Today, under the New Covenant, we as God’s priests (see the 1 Peter reference below) are in charge of our individual altars of incense—praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. This is a task that should be attended as our highest joy, an outflowing from our hearts because of the inflowing of the Spirit as He does His work in us.
It’s a precious thing, one I want to keep practicing. So next time my side seams don’t match up, or the garment ends up fitting much differently than I had intended, perhaps I should post a picture of that and start a trend with the hashtag #ThankfulForFailure …and a chance to try again.
Have you been practicing being thankful for things lately…even if it’s things that really didn’t turn out the way you wanted them to? What has the Lord been teaching you through failure recently?
*See 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, Ephesians 2:19-22, and 1 Peter 2:4-10