I was making my morning coffee the other day and was down to the last few packets of Truvia. Over the years I’ve used sugar, Splenda, Sweet & Low and numerous other types of sweeteners in my coffee. And I’ve run out many times. But this particular morning, I had just enough. And I was grateful.
There have been many times when I’ve come close to running out of something and found that I had just enough. I’ve pre-soaked laundry and loaded it all in the washer only to find I had just enough detergent to clean that one load. I’ve done the same with the dishwasher. I’m sure we’ve all found ourselves in the shower with just enough soap or shampoo to get the job done. And everyone can identify with having just enough toilet paper left on the roll.
These moments are little “Thank God” moments for me. They are minor situations that cause me to stop and say, “Whew, that was close. Thank God I had just enough.” I’m reminded to be thankful because of how close I get to running out. But I don’t always do that with other things in my life. I forget to thank God for the things I have plenty of because I don’t think about them until I’m on empty.
The things I’m talking about are not coffee, sweetener, toilet paper or gasoline for my car. I’m not referring to electricity, money or even necessities like food and water. The things that I have plenty of, the things that I often forget to thank God for are the things that I used to live without. These are things like faith, willingness, self-love, patience, compassion, courage, honesty and hope. These things, these intangibles, eluded me for decades. I watched them flicker in and out of my life numerous times over the years, never understanding how these flights of fancy could fix themselves permanently in other people’s lives and not mine. I never understood how others had a seemingly unending supply of these things and I barely ever had any, never mind just enough.
Then I got into recovery. I worked these amazingly simple and brutally difficult steps. And I found a new relationship with God. In doing so, I discovered that these things that I never had were finally available to me. I learned that faith could be mine and could be mine forever. I just had to have faith to get faith. I was taught that willingness was there for the taking and I could have as much as I was willing to give. The same was true with patience, tolerance and honesty. I was able to acquire huge quantities of all of these treasures with very little effort. All I had to do was give them away. I just had to be patient to receive patience. I had to be honest to be treated with honesty. And I had to be tolerant, loving and compassionate to receive those beautiful things into my life. The irony is that the more of these I share and give away, the more I get back in return. So the never ending supply is directly related to my actions. If I want more, I must give more.
I also found that once I started getting these things, I didn’t truly appreciate them until I saw them running low. I didn’t thank God earnestly for the hope I gained in recovery until I was faced with my bout of sober hopelessness. When I found myself miserable, scared and backed into a corner, I reached for my hope only to find that I had so little I had to ration it. It was in that moment that I remembered to thank God for the hope that I had longed for. The same thing happens with patience and tolerance. I don’t recognize them for the assets they really are when they are overflowing in my life. I only acknowledge their value when I need a refill.
Sometimes God reminds me how blessed I am without having to take me to the brink of disaster. Every once in a while I’m obedient enough to listen when He sends these kinder, gentler messages. He uses hopeless people, those who are on the ledge, begging for the pain to end, to remind me to be grateful for the hope I have today, the hope that sits snugly at the bottom of my heart, so much a part of me that I almost forget it’s there. He uses angry, bitter, judgmental people to shake me up and remind me to be grateful for the budding tolerance I have today, even though sometimes I misplace it. He uses hurt, pained, broken, abandoned, abused, frustrated, desperate people of all shapes, colors and sizes to stop me in my selfishness and remind me to be grateful for the blessings He has poured down on me.
God uses other moments of fallibility to bonk me over the head with gratitude when I least expect it, too. He uses my own angry moments to remind me to be grateful for serenity and my willingness to apologize to remind me to be thankful for the little bit of humility I have. He uses my frustration over a particular situation to force me to appreciate the fact that I don’t have to control everything and to be grateful for the power to let go. God uses all sorts of people, places and things to bring me to gratitude for the intangibles in my life. And as long as I still have obedience, just enough obedience to pay attention, I might get the message.
So the next time I see an irate person, a hopeless person, an ungrateful person, whether in the street or in the mirror, I will take it as a sign from God and I will be thankful for the tolerance, hope and gratitude that I have today. I don’t have much of any of these things. But I have just enough. And for that I’m grateful.