"I will never take _____ for granted again!" How many times do we find ourselves either thinking this or saying this when we have something that we have missed for a period of time. I can't even begin to count the number of times since being here that I have used that phrase. It usually comes at the time of a cold shower, or the blessing of a warm one, that I think or even verbalize that I will "never" take hot water for granted again. Recently it has been electricity as power outages have been more frequent and for longer periods of time. We can almost expect each night that our electricity will go out between 6-8 p.m. and not resume until sometime throughout the night, leaving us in the dark, breezeless night with the humidity settling in around us like a heavy blanket. This is more of a frustration and inconvenience than anything else, but unfortunately we do rely on electricity to keep medications cold and with temperatures like ours, our little refrigerator has trouble keeping the cold in, or even getting cold for that matter when we do have electricity.
I also tend to think about this phrase when it comes to rain, the cold, always having running water at our fingertips and having the convenience of a vehicle. But the biggest event that triggered this thought recently was the use of a washing machine!
A few days ago, we were blessed to once again to have family here in Gambia. My (Jessica's) parents came to visit for 9 days. We decided to take a couple of days in the city to enjoy some A.C., a pool, satellite tv, hot water and much to my delight: our very own washing machine! Usually if we go somewhere with a washing machine we have to pay someone to do our wash for us, but at this particular place we were able to do it ourselves. You may find yourself laughing at this, but after washing clothes by hand for 9 months, it is amazing to use a washing machine and to realize how dry clothes get when spun rather than hand rung! Elias and I actually made the 30-40 min. drive back to our house just to get the rest of our laundry so that we wouldn't have to do it by hand later in the week.
As exciting as this may be, it got me thinking about how may times we say that we won't take something for granted ever again and then in a matter of weeks, or maybe a couple of months if we're fortunate, we have forgotten and begin complaining about the very thing we were never going to take for granted! Even I have to admit that before I know it, I'll be complaining about having to take the time to put the clothes in the washer, let the machine do the work and then take the time to hang them on the line. Or I will be stepping into the hot shower, because I have to without even thinking about the hundreds of cold showers that I had to take here. When we experience the infrequent power outage at home, it will most likely be followed by surprise and possibly groans if it interferes with our daily routine.
I then began to think about how we even do this with people, especially our families. After having Elias' family and then my parents come to visit, we were reminded how nice it is to have time with family and how much we do actually miss them. Yet when we get home, we may find ourselves getting irritated with the very people that we missed so much while here. I would love to think that I will never take the blessing of family for granted, but I know that all too often that is exactly what happens. And as I thought about how quickly we take for granted our immediate family, I began to think about our church family and how this so easily happens with the body of Christ. Rather than recognize the gifts that others have to offer, we argue about our differences. Or rather than complimenting our pastors on all the work they do, we nit pick and complain about what they aren't doing.
Which then brings me to think about how often we take God himself for granted. In times of need, we cry out with all our being, and when He answers, we promise to be more faithful, make more time for Him and never take for granted how He provides for us and blesses us. Then things get better and we find that it has been days, weeks or even months since we sat down and read our Bible or prayed to the One who carried us through our time of suffering. We forget all of His blessings such as the blessings of food, shelter, clothing, work. We forget to thank Him for our families and lift them up to him, especially when we're irritated with them. We forget to thank Him for the body of Christ and how He made us each unique yet in His image so that we can show others, who our God is and bring His kingdom here to earth. This is coming from personal convictions that I know I have to work on, but I think that it is all too common in most of our lives. My prayer is that we can strive to remember all of our blessings, big and small, and truly not take things for granted rather than just saying that we won't.