4000 Gifts: A Story of Arrival

P1040686Some years ago, I was seventeen, and life made almost no sense. What a surprise.

That is, I had my bearings on a great many matters, and I had a veritable collection of high ideals, but they were just that: ideals. And when you are young and living in your parents’ house, it is probable that everything worth having will seem to be far in the distance. If you are not careful, that will never change.

The story of the seventeen year old whose life makes no sense is hardly a novel one. But neither is the story of the college graduate whose life still makes no sense. Or the mid-career professional. Or the young housewife. Or the wealthy, retired couple that vacations in Europe. Or the worn old man, full of days, who finally holds up the white flag and gives his surrender to cancer, and whose life makes no sense to him at all.

P1040675The fact of the matter is, there is a sense in which life makes no sense. Ever. Because now we see through a glass darkly, and what we see is shadowy and muddled and absurd. Sometimes we know what we are looking at, despite the fact that the picture comes in blurry and unclear. But sometimes we haven’t the faintest idea.

When I was seventeen, I supposed all this would eventually change, and that at some point, I would stop running into mysteries and trouble and arrive at the place of complete satisfaction, happy in the work of my choosing, and not hungering anymore. Someday, I supposed, I would have everything I wanted, and get rid of the ache that rises up in me when the front door opens and the world smells like rain, or when the sun goes down paving the ocean with gold. But I was very wrong.

P1040641Thankfully, something happened to me four years ago to stop me in my tracks and turn me around to face my life – my own splendid life that was passing me by every day while I was refusing to take delight in it. Refusing, because the good that I had was not as good as it might be, and because I kept hoping I could make peace with the hunger in me, and would not look it in the eyes.

The thing that happened to change everything was that I stumbled over some old words, and chose to wake up to the myriads of good things that crowded me on every side, and to give them names, and to give them records. Most significantly, this was the only thing that changed. For in every other way, my life went on just as it had been going on, and nothing was different but myself.

P1040628I have filled hundreds and hundreds of pages, and made lists that are crooked and illustrated them with little patches of paintings that are disproportionate and smudged and sometimes just plain ugly. And my days have been checkered with darkness, and not a few regrets, but when I go back to look at what remains of them, what I see is hundreds and hundreds of gifts, for that is all I have recorded of all this time.

Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?

someone asked in a little poem from the past century. For when we’re in debt to love so immense, every little thing that we get is a gift.

This week was the four-year anniversary of the gift-lists in my life. This week I put down #4000 in a little spiral-bound notebook, with a worn-out pen. Like this:

#4000 – “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

P1040670And thus did I arrive at the place I was seeking, and found out it was exactly the place I was living.

The time to arrive at the place of complete satisfaction is now. Because satisfaction isn’t found in a place or a time or a country. It’s found in the World’s Great Lover. And you’re going to hunger all your days – all of these days that you spend down here under the sun. So you might as well stop trying to put a gag in the gaping, and decide to put a good face on it instead.

Take heart, for the day is coming when we shall know fully, even as we are fully known.

23 thoughts on “4000 Gifts: A Story of Arrival

  1. Hello! The pages from your book are absolutely beautiful! What kind of pen and spiral notebook do you use? Also, in the Hobbit picture, I love the image that Number 2701 calls up: “creamy coffee on the treehouse planks and the Hobbit out loud in wind with quilt squares swaddling.”

  2. A dear friend of mine referred me to your blog….what a blessing! Thank you for for your beautiful, thought provoking, and most importantly, Christ centered posts. I come away refreshed and amazed at how awesome He is! :)

    1. Oh dear. *blushes* Thank you, Amelie. This is the best part about writing: someone saying, “Oh, me too! I know this also, though I’ve never said it quite like that.”

      Blessings to you and yours today — and to the dear friend who sent you over here. I hope you keep coming back! :)

    1. Thank you Sofia! I’m impressed that you caught the reference, even though I avoided saying, “And, to quote G.K. Chesterton for the one million three hundred thousand two hundred and seventy eighth time….”

  3. Bryana “Joy”…perfectly named! Wonderful words, more than that they glorify the World’s Greatest Lover. Keep shining brightly. Much love.

  4. Beautiful and inspiring. I’ve requested to have your posts emailed to me (through the ‘follow’ button) but the confirmation email held no content. Is this right?

    1. Hi Jacqueline, thank you kindly for your comment and your subscription. I think it is correct that the confirmation email doesn’t contain any content. When a new post is made, you should see content.

  5. Bryana, this is beautiful, and a timely reminder for me as well. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, from Marilynne Robinson: “There are a thousand thousand reasons to live, every one of them sufficient.”

  6. Simply beautiful! Thank you for the inspiration. I just finished Ann Voskamp’s “One Thousand GIfts” and was just thinking of starting a similar journal and then what did I find but your post–is this a sign? :)
    Looking forward to reading more.

  7. Reblogged this on writermummy and commented:
    I was looking for a post to reblog for International Women’s Day (having failed to write anything inspirational myself) and I discovered this gem in my reader. Such an inspiring post from an inspiring lady. I want to start my own book of gifts. Beautiful.

  8. You still amaze me more and more everytime I read something that you write. All I can say is that you have been given a gift in many many ways..

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