We’ve all had our moments.
It seemed, back in the last decade, like I barely got up before some life event was knocking me back down.
While in South Carolina, I had the landlord from hell, a shady individual who refused to fix major things. He blamed me for what his property neglect had caused over time.
I lived in a neighborhood where I was the only person of my race, and was shunned by my neighbors.
The person who managed my rent-assisted home was very bigoted and told me flat out that my rental should have gone to someone of her race, and not of mine. She refused to do anything to force my landlord to correct problems, stating on one occasion, ‘what do you want me to do, spank him?”
The house was infested with roaches, another thing the landlord refused to fix. Before he rented the place to me, he had said the home was in a stellar neighborhood. I was renting long distance, and took his word for it.
The neighborhood turned out to be in the middle of one of the worst crack neighborhoods in the area. I quickly learned not to go out at night. Even in the daytime I was very wary.
During that time, an 18-wheeler totaled my car, leaving me without a reliable means of transportation until my case with the trucking company was settled and I could buy a dependable truck.
That summer, I offered a young man in his teens a ride in my truck because it was well over 100 degrees and I felt sorry for him. Despite the several decades’ difference in our ages, he assumed I was trying to pick him up and made an outrageous sexual pass.
When I put him out on the road after turning him down, he found my house, tried to steal my truck, and did steal my cell phone and some emergency money I kept under the driver’s seat.
When I reported it to the police, I was told that it was my own stupidity for being kind to a stranger of a different race. I was advised to make my neighbors think that I had guns, and would use them.
I had other people do outrageous things, it seemed on a daily basis. I complained to my family, who had had enough of my ongoing problems, and cut off contact. I was alone, isolated and without a friend. I had given up hope. I began to plan what I felt would be a fool proof way to take my life, and planned it to happen on my birthday.
The Lord proved that he hadn’t given up on me in a miraculous way, intervening in a way that ended all thoughts of suicide for the time being. There followed a time of growth, change and calling that eventually led me to a completely different life. By October of 2007, I was able to shake the dust off my feet, and say goodbye to South Carolina forever.
One thing I began to learn during that difficult time, was I had a choice of how I looked at things. I began, very slowly, to try to look for something good instead of dwelling on the bad. However, it would take years before I got even close to understanding that looking for the good was good FOR me.
In the early days of living in Kentucky, in Jessamine County, I experienced some bizarre behavior from people who claimed to be Christians. When I would complain, people around me would advise me to try to give the individuals the benefit of the doubt.
I didn’t want to. I kept remembering how God had brought me away from South Carolina, and was showing me, sometimes on a daily basis, his provision for me, and proof of his calling me to Kentucky. However, I didn’t want to speak hope or gratitude.
Childish person that I still was, I wanted to moan about how bad my life was. And, yes, there were major challenges for the first five or so years in Kentucky. Many of the problems were either self-created or made worse by my attitudes and choices.
I thought in a negative way, so I LIVED in a negative way. Anyone who went around trying to see the good in things, I dismissed as being idiotic or fanatical. Pollyannas.
Who needed that?
This past week, when I was reading part of the book of Genesis, I read the account of Leah and Rachael. You have to feel a bit sorry for Leah. She wasn’t loved in the story, but was used as a sexual outlet for her husband, a brood mare to give him children, and all the while she had to watch him gush over her much prettier sister.
By the end of the story, nothing really changed. Leah had given Jacob multiple sons and at least one daughter. She’d been a faithful and good wife. He still didn’t love her, or at least nothing is said that shows evidence of it. He’s still, all the years later, drooling over Rachel.
But then, something changed.
Leah, upon giving birth to her last son, named him Judah. And, she said, “This time, I will praise the Lord.”
I’d read this story before, but this time, that comment really jumped out at me. Leah stopped demanding her husband’s favors, stopped hating her sister, possibly stopped competing with her. She didn’t have any more children, so it is possible that she didn’t demand from Jacob, or beg from Rachel her conjugal rights. She just stopped, and lived her life. And—she praised the Lord.
We really don’t know if the rest of her life was happy or sad, but it seems that Leah made a great step forward on the day that she chose to find the good in what she could, and let the rest alone.
I’ve only recently obtained the gift of gratitude. Something that I just didn’t have for nearly the first 50 years of my life. But when that gift was given, and it took root, man—it took.
On my darkest days (thankfully not nearly as many as when I was younger) I find that picking things in which to praise God often lifts that dark cloud and helps me calm down.
We can choose.
Leah was in a culture where she didn’t have a lot of choice. She was not valued for her gender. The only thing she was valued for by her society was that she gave her husband strong and healthy sons. However, Jacob did not seem to value these children as much as he valued the children that Rachel, her sister, gave him. This had to devastate Leah. However, she finally chose to direct her longing for love to someone who would appreciate it and give it back—God.
Today, if you are drowning in problems, heartbreak, depression, feeling unloved, unvalued or lost, take a moment to thank God for what you do have. Maybe it’s just that your heart is beating correctly. Or that you took an easy breath. Some days that is all I have had. But the habit of gratitude, once encouraged even a tiny bit, might surprise you.
Once you find a few things to be glad about, you find a few more. And suddenly, because you look at the world differently, you might find you have a whole lot to be happy about.
I’m not saying that going around with a goofy smile and a extra positive attitude will make all your problems disappear. Life might hurt like hell for a long time. Tears may be all that you know as you walk through the darkest of valleys. But–find that one thing, that little piece of hope, and hang on tight. Refuse to let go.
Next time, when you feel hopeless, pick up the song of Leah. Next time, choose. Next time, praise the Lord.