Gratitude. And Holiness

September 7, 2017

In a couple of weeks Henry and I are attending a Hanson concert in Birmingham. If you don’t know me that well, or you were born after 1989, you’ll be like, “Great, who’s that?” If you read what I wrote last year, you’ll get it.

Can I tell you a secret? I’m terrified of going to this concert. It’s like a car wreck. I am like a car wreck.

I STILL care a lot (too much?) about this band and this music. I keep thinking I have to get out from under it somehow but it hasn’t changed in 20 years. Not really.

It’s the typical story of an idol in many ways. When I was younger, I thought I could work hard enough to make myself an equal with these guys: musically, or in fame, or with my personal beauty, or even in my own character. The older I get, the further away from my reach all of those things seem to be – especially the last. I don’t feel like I’ve risen above a damn thing.

I often have to ask, why did Jesus want me to go on this journey? I felt a huge initial relief when I figured out what had been going on all those years. But it’s not like I’m immune to jealousy and vanity. Quite the opposite. I see more clearly the real power they have over me.

If there ever was a time when I felt less as though I was “born to do something no one’s ever done” I don’t remember it. I often feel as though motherhood has stripped me of everything that made me myself. There is no book that can tell you how limiting and, frankly, sad it can feel to be spending your youth for the good of other people. Even if you chose it. It’s a grief I have yet to figure out how to get through.

What it also is, still, is a lack of humility. Sally Clarkson, in her book “Desperate,” said something that cut me to the quick. She said, who am I to think that I’m too good to sacrifice my life for my children? Who am I to think my time is more important than theirs? The same goes for everyone else. Who am I to be bitter if I’m cooking while everyone else is resting, or having fun or playing music together? I’m not too good to serve people. I’m not too good give up my time, or my potential, for the good of someone else. I don’t know…that thought got in there this time I guess.

For that matter, who am I to begrudge the Hanson brothers their talent, luck, charisma, joy and personal beauty; Or, alas, the happenstance of being born male? Who says that me getting all those things would have been more fair? And yet…I still want to prove myself or wish there was some way I could. I still operate from the old model of self-righteousness.

The true model, of course, is upside-down from that. Whatever power, beauty and joy that I’ve assigned to the Hanson brothers is an atom in the universe that is God. But God gave it up. He didn’t come to earth, with all its vagaries, as even a beautiful man. He didn’t even allow Himself that comfort. He came as a homely, homeless wanderer. He often went hungry. He had all the nuisances of fame with none of its glory.

I can’t escape the fact that I have been baptized into a death like Christ’s, not a life of prestige and fame. But I can’t always make that track with why love for the beauty I see feels so good and right. There’s something I’m not understanding in moments like this.

The one thing I’m glad I did this year was to listen to Hanson, one album at a time, starting from where I left off. I heard them grow up, and get better, in fast forward. I found out first hand what I’d kept hearing as a rumor: “Hanson’s still around! They’re really good.” I discovered that I don’t like every single song they’ve ever released! And I’ve heard a few songs that made my jaw drop. How did people so young write such things?

For brief moments, I felt like I was actually in awe. I felt real, starry-eyed wonder. I can’t explain it other than to say it’s a little like watching your best friend give birth. Because they are my age, maybe, I can’t help but be flabbergasted sometimes. Are you guys really doing this? It’s not a stunt?

And then came the gratitude.

The gratitude: that’s been the only healing thing about this whole, silly, Hanson journey. The moments of light and wonder, wrested from so many years of miserable despair, are the real gift. They make me realize I’ve never been grateful before at all. It’s been the kind of feeling that leaves no room for anything else; no regret about my own failings, no envy that they have something I don’t, no embarrassment or shame that I like something so trivial so much.

I don’t feel it all the time. If I could, I’d be a much better person than I am now. If and when I can access that gratitude, it all feels worth it: all the embarrassment, self-pity, anger and pain. Because then, it’s bigger than me AND it’s bigger than Hanson. After all, who made them?

If I can lay hold of that gratitude, it all makes sense. Hanson is my proverbial flower. Their “beauty” is part of what they do and who they are. And it’s not FOR them, you know? That’s not how beauty works. The flower’s color is for the bee. The tree’s fruit is for the animals.

There’s no getting around it: it’s difficult to be confronted with a beauty, talent, will and passion bigger than one’s own. In some ways, I know I will struggle to enjoy myself at the concert and I will feel self-conscious. The comparison is not flattering to me. It’s why I’ve always had a hard time at concerts. (A true 4!!)

But gratitude changes that. Gratitude makes me happy just to be me and happy to be able to see them being them. So I hope against hope that I will come and go from that concert venue full of wonder and gratitude. If I can do that – even if sometimes I still get stuck feeling jealous or regretful – I will consider it a win.

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