Friday, May 30, 2014

At all times?!

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall ever be in my mouth.*
       "At all times"?  Really?
       This being the end of another academic year, those of us on either side of the teacher's desk are often found "evaluating" an experience in a classroom (be it physical or virtual).  We may find ourselves making comments like "It was better than I expected" (or it's opposite!), "I learned so much", "I couldn't understand the essays", or...  I had a student this quarter who noted that he had had a "different dream" for what a certain class would hold.  I must say that I had a slightly different dream for that class as well.
        Disappointment might to be too strong a word to apply in these kinds of situations, but there is often a sense of let-down (at the least) when things don't go as we expected.  Parents know this feeling well as dreams for their children hit insurmountable road-blocks.  Those whose chosen careers don't work out as planned know it.  Students express frustration when, feeling well-prepared for an exam, find that where THEY focused their studies was not where the instructor focused.  So how, in these circumstances, can we "bless the Lord at all times"?
        It's an exhortation found through Hebrew and Christian scriptures (at least).  And there is certainly a long history of encouragement to be grateful (another way of "blessing").  But I think that there is also a sense among many people that the only things for which it is worth being grateful are good things:  "I'm grateful for good weather."  "I'm grateful for an "A" on the final."  "I'm grateful for an understanding partner."  There's also a sense, often, of being grateful that something bad didn't happen:  "I'm grateful that the floods didn't affect MY house."  And NONE of these are bad or wrong.
       But, can we be grateful in adversity?  I think that's where it really gets tough for most of us -- at least it does for me.  And this goes further than the "there's a silver lining to every cloud" philosophy.  It is an assertion, a hope, that there is something in each event, each encounter, that mediates the Divine to us.  In my case, that message, in moments of disappointment, can be boiled down to:  "You realize you're not the center of the universe, don't you?"  And that, if I pay attention, can lead to a renewed sense of humility and understanding of others.
       To follow upon the image that heads this column, our perception of what "fills" the glass is generally limited to the liquid.  There is, of course, more if we take a moment to consider.
        Bless the Lord.


Chaplain Gary
*Psalm 34.1

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