My day starts with ten leprous men. Those hideous outcasts join my children and me at the breakfast table for Cheerios and conversation. As I read aloud this accounting of Luke's, I am pierced again by Jesus and his ways. He does not hesitate to answer those ten desperate cries for help. This is why He came. To do the will of his Father. Do not all ten feel the joy of realizing they are clean, every sore and pain gone without a trace? Yes, of course they do. But only one knows what to do with the gift. Only one lets the joy come bursting loudly from his lungs, falling down and thanking at the feet of the One who did the giving.
The Cheerios are almost gone now, and we are saying out loud the things we are thankful for today. The autumn light is gold coming in the window, and it is good, but I move them on, push them to finish their school work. This is MRI day for me, and I don't want to go, but I don't want to be late. We have other things to do, but in the middle, Sara comes to me with her Bible. She has searched and found the story of the one who thanked Jesus. She is proud of finding it, and she wants to read it to us. We need to keep moving, but I smile and nod her on. Sam wonders aloud why we need to read this again, and I am thinking we need to hear this as many times as it takes. I want to be The One Who Thanks.
Later, alone on my forty minute drive to the hospital, I am anything but thankful. Sam is doing well, but the situation with his growth hormone drug is frustrating. I spend my forty minutes on hold and talking to the pharmacist, and my stomach feels twisted when she tells me we will need to pay twice what we were told at the first. This feels like an impossibly difficult situation, and I find myself stomping and muttering my way into the hospital.
It is forever November 8, 2007 inside this place for me. My dad is here, coming out of surgery. The cancer is mean, and it is invading his brain, stealing land it has no right to claim. His mouth is dry and his head hurts so badly, I need to look away. I want to leave this place now and walk away from the memory, but I walk down the hall to MRI. They know me here. I've done this before. I take off my earrings, put on my gown, and go into that tunnel where nothing exists but closeness, heat, and blaring beeps, thumps, and tappings. This machine is seeing into my brain, and it saw my dad's brain, and our stories have turned out so differently.
I close my eyes and try to relax. My face feels hot. But words come with the tapping of the machine. Do not be anxious...do not be anxious. About anything...about anything. But in everything...but in everything. By prayer and petition...by prayer and petition. With thanksgiving...with thanksgiving...with thanksgiving...with thanksgiving. Present your requests to God. Okay. Okay. Breathe. Thank You, God. Thanks that You are taking care of this situation.
I drive across the street to the neurology office. I sign in, put an x by Dr. Nice's name, and notice also the name of Dad's doctor. He is the one who said those words to my dad that we are all afraid of--You have only a few months to live. My dad sat here in this waiting room, and I sit here now, reading a book, and our stories turned out so differently.
The book I have in my purse is Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts. She is telling the story of the ten lepers, and I think this is no coincidence. Three times in just six hours the Lord has given me this story, and I think I should pay attention. Be the one, He whispers. Be the thankful one. In a world full of stomping and muttering, be the one who falls at my feet to thank me.
Yes, Lord, I will! I am! You have healed me, and I am so thankful. You have Sam's best in mind, and I am thankful. You provide all we need, and I am thankful. You've given my dad a home in heaven, and I am thankful.
The nurse calls me back. "What drugs are you taking for your MS?" she asks. I startle slightly at this, and tell her I don't have MS. She looks confused, checks my chart again. "I'm sorry. I was just going by what your chart says." She reads something else. "Oh, I see. Okay." She looks at me again, and I don't know what she is thinking. After she leaves, I open my book again. My eyes glance up and catch the words on the drug ad poster on the wall: "Which One Are You?" I am the one who is thankful, I answer.
When Dr. Nice comes in, I smile. I like this guy. "What are you reading?" he asks. He sits next to me, takes the book into his hands and looks at the pretty cover, two hands extended full of potential, a bird's nest with two eggs. "It's a book about being thankful," I say, a very simple synopsis.
"That's good," he says, and with more expression and emotion than I have ever seen from him, " and you have much to be thankful for, because your brain looks ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS! Really beautiful. I mean, I am just so surprised. I really thought you would have MS. I really did. This just doesn't happen. You are the rare case. You are a lucky girl."
I think my face might crack. I can't smile any bigger. My eyes fill partially with tears, but my smile never wavers. He looks at me, really looks, then looks down, but comes back. He's looking straight into my eyes, now, and he's lingering, and I think I know why. I think I know what he sees there. It's what I hope he sees there. It's the Jesus Joy. The Light. I know it's there. I can feel it beaming right out of my eyes.
His words, You are a lucky girl, have vibrated the air around us, and now have fallen silent, and I want to counter them with a higher truth. I speak gently into that silence, "This is God. I am blessed," my simple synopsis. Dr. Nice nods, and becomes excited once again as he recalls a study he once read about the power prayer has on one's immune system. He's recounting the details and looking at me, and I think he's deciding it just might be true, and I smile. "Yes," I say, "absolutely."
With joy, now, after the exam, he tells me it is a pleasure to see a case turn out this way. He shakes my hand goodbye, and tells me to inform the check-out girl that I have graduated. I tell her and the tears come. I don't have to come here again. Our stories did not turn out so differently after all, mine and my dad's. He graduated from this place, too. He won't come here again. To live is Christ, to die is gain. I am living. Living for Christ. He has gained eternal life. Both are good. We both have good stories.
My drive home is so much different than the drive there had been. I marvel inwardly, as I have oftentimes, that joy makes my chest hurt. My heart is so full, it brings me a physical sensation of pain. I say Thank You. And I say it again. Thank You. And again. Thank You. And this is breaking something in me I didn't know was there. Now I say it over and over. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Over and over. And the tears are pouring out, and the laughter comes out, too. And I can't say anything else right now, because this is all I need to say. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.
Jesus is talking me through this somewhat odd experience. This is why you get that full feeling inside you sometimes. It is the thanks trying to get out. You need to let it out. This is a new level of thankfulness for you, and it blesses me so much. This what the woman who poured her perfume out did for me. She blessed me. You are pouring out the sweet fragrance of thanksgiving from your heart and it is blessing me.
I weep and say Thank You some more. I say it until the last Thank You is out. How do you feel now? Jesus asks me. I check my heart. It isn't painful anymore. It is gooooooooooooood. It feels groovy. It feels peaceful. Yes, of course, after the prayer and petition with thanksgiving, comes the peace of God, which transcends all understanding. It guards my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. And I have a knowing that as often as I pour out my perfume, He will fill it up again. This could never get old. Yes, I will be the one, Lord.