A friend recently asked me a question. It came out of nowhere, making me pause and, at the same time, sending my memory down a path that seemingly had only two possibilities. You see, my friend is raising teenagers and sees life through their eyes. She’s seeing the wonder of their innocence, all while scanning her adult mind to predict the moments — and therefore memories — that could come to pass.
When you remember your childhood, is it good? Or is it bad? That’s what she asked. A simple survey between long-time friends. A focus group of comfort, support, and sheer honesty. She wanted my knee-jerk answer. A response off the cuff. Such a profound question had me searching thirty-seven years of memories in attempt to answer her ,As someone who loves the art of stringing a few words together, I gave my big picture answer — childhood was bad. But . . . when I really let myself think through the details of my childhood, then my answer changes — childhood was good. And, I know, it’s not the data she was hoping to collect. To answer both “good” and “bad” meant she’d have to tally both sides. Why bother even recording my answer at all?
The thought lingered in my mind. Then came a wave of nostalgia, a fistful of regret, a pinch of shame, and an outpouring of memories that needed to be pieced together like a puzzle. So, one by one I put the thousands of tiny pieces together until they snapped into place, creating a big picture that made sense of everything that came to my mind. Here is what I realized . . .
It’s as if the most painful memories are the most prominent ones. When asked about my childhood, the first memories that come to mind are those of me moving and saying goodbye to friends when I was in the sixth grade. Then there are the fragmented memories of my parents arguing, me crying whenever I was left out by friends, being teased at school, and fights with siblings.
Still, as soon as these images flashed across my mind . . . so, too, did a few others. As I thought a little deeper, digging into the details of my youth, I remembered my mom writing special notes on white paper napkins and tucking them inside our school lunch boxes. I remember my grandma making brownies with us and letting me lick the bowl of batter. I remember wearing matching nighties with my sister and the way our freshly showered, damp hair drapped down our backs as we watched I Love Lucy with our mom.
I wonder, is this how I view God and His gifts? Do miss the good because I paint a wide brush stroke over all the things that I call bad? Deep down, do I ultimately think that God simply doesn’t care—when I see people battling cancer, find myself still single after divorce, or watch the world suffer in heartache. “Bad” would certainly be the word I’d label life if I only glanced at the big picture.
Perhaps a heart of gratitude reaches a little deeper, finding God’s goodness in the smallest of moments — an intimate smile shared between patients in a waiting room. The newfound joy someone who is blind finds when wrapping his arms around his guide dog. The comfort of a friend sending a thoughtful card or text that simply says, “I’m praying for you.”
These intricate details are like the soft petals of flowers that make up a full bouquet. So beautiful up close and yet they still matter when looked at all together. And as I reflect during this season of thanks, I want my heart to overflow with gratitude for the One who made me and etched out every small piece of my story. Because now, and even then — in my childhood when I felt the sting of tears in my eyes —I see the goodness of God.
God’s goodness is all around us despite the tragedies that strike this broken earth.
No matter what this chapter of life holds, I know God is a good Author. He is the One who sent a neighbor to look over me even though I was sad to live alone. He is the One who sent strong Christian women to befriend me when I was weak and weary after divorce. He is the One who brought me into a church small group with real women who love genuinely and laugh from the soul.
God loves us so much that He weaves goodness into our every moments — even the bad ones. We might be delighted — even surprised — to look back and see how He was there through it all, giving us good gifts and grace . . . like napkin notes in a lunchbox on a bad day.
And for that, I am truly thankful.Leave a Comment