In my 27th year I've frequently asked the Lord how I can steward a life that seems to be passing by all too quickly, and his answer has been to give thanks. Like Israelites in the desert who found their daily manna so precious they resorted to hoarding it, I've felt desperate to prolong the sweetness of each day, straining to be more awake and aware, disciplining myself to journal my memories - and in doing so, have realized how impossible it is to stretch my life beyond its allotted time. I've come to follow the Lord's edict that I simply give thanks, and partake.
So the prayer of this year was "thank you." I prayed it loud and boisterous over the baskets of cherry tomatoes picked from our back yard, blessing the crop that David lovingly planted and then reserved for my hands to pick. I though it when I caught sight of our Honda CRV at the end of each workday, came face to face with my husband, and felt myself immediately cross the threshold from work to home. I felt it as a tightness in my throat on the morning of Yising's wedding, when I walked beside her and Bailey through the Sunset and thought about how beautiful and serene my sister had become, and how glad I was to be certain of her joy. I offered it from my hospital bed after the labor was over, the doctors gone, the visitors home, raising my hands in the darkened room to give thanks that David, Joanie and I were together at last.
I understand the Israelite's impulse to hoard their manna. They were nomads in circumstance but not in nature; they rallied around the promise of a homeland. When they awoke to manna carpeting the ground and first tasted its sweetness, of course they would have wanted to secure a thing that might serve as a source of joy not only today but tomorrow, and create a sense of home even as they moved through the desert in tents. Their story, along with other passages of scripture themed around alienation and longing, is a text I have returned to for years. This life is not all there is, but its loveliness and familiarity make me ill at ease with the thought of leaving for anything more.
More recently I have been thinking of the Gospels, which contain Jesus' repeated exhortation: repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. The image of Israel in the desert still holds its relevance for me, as believers in a coming Promised Land, an invisible Kingdom will certainly feel uncomfortable with life in the interstices, but now a greater point emerges -- there is a Kingdom.
The Psalmist says that we enter his gates with thanksgiving in our hearts and enter his courts with praise. In lifting up my days in gratitude I saw them transfigured, and their newly acquired beauty leads me to think the Kingdom of God I've imagined to hover in the horizon is knowable, as close as Jesus promised. I wonder if the Israelites were meant to give thanks, eat, and be done with their daily bread so that they would not be preoccupied with looking for permanence where there was none to be found, but have the wherewithal to lift their eyes to their Maker, and find in the transient gift a reminder of what is eternal. Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. How apt that in Hebrew, to "repent" is "to turn."
I think this is why the Lord instructed me to steward my one, fleeting life by giving thanks. Gratitude intensifies the passing moment of beauty by leading it to point to an eternal homeland and to the King at its center.
Prayers of thanksgiving have me applying my hands to a Kingdom I cannot see. As I commemorate each instance of goodness in my life, an outline of the Kingdom forms, and I begin to understand it as the towering faithfulness of God in my life, looming.