By Timothy Swensen
May 12, 2014
I sat next to my wife and children this past Sunday during our congregation’s service, exhausted from a long and emotional week, and tried to summon the energy and concentration to worship God in spirit and truth, but was falling short. Then it happened—a dazzling shock wave of grace, this time granted in the form of a song I had never heard and performed in gorgeous, raw simplicity by the tenor soloist and the musicians accompanying her.
I hate to resort to cliché, but I can’t avoid it. I was moved to tears: Creator, it began, giver of all things: All I have is Yours; Accept my humble offering: All I have is Yours.
It’s always proper to count one’s blessings, but on the occasion of Mother’s Day and my impending (cough, sputter) 53rd birthday, perhaps it’s especially fitting to reflect on the infinite and varied charities I’ve been granted, from whom they’ve come, and to whom they really belong.
The material stuff is important, of course, and is relatively easy to bring to mind and catalog: A reliable and comfortable car that gets me to my job in Dayton and around town as needed; a cozy roof over our heads, with indoor plumbing, electricity, and a killer view of the Greenville City Park; a surfeit of clothing that fits nicely and is suitable for all weathers; food that is both abundant and accessible (sometimes too much so for my own good). I could proceed for pages without breaking a mental sweat. This offering is a means of grace: All I have is Yours.
Usually, the truly strenuous exercise is to assemble and appropriately consider the less tangible blessings, the ones that seem abstract, subtle, opaque, or—perish the thought—solely the result of my own efforts: reasonably good health that enables me to throw a baseball with Luke, walk with my wife, engage in Star Wars “training” with Daniel, ride a bike with Abby, chase children around a playground, and toss up air-balls on my intramural church-league team; a regular, daily dose of laughter, thanks to my wife and children, church family, friends, neighbors, or good-natured colleagues at the University of Dayton School of Law; a stimulating, worthwhile, and fun (really!) job that I look forward to engaging in almost every work day; parents and sisters who shepherded me through the first decades of my life with unceasing patience, love, and an inexplicable level of joy; classmates and teachers of mine and of my children who’ve consistently modeled and instilled a sense of wonder associated with learning and discovery, and grace when compliance or respect was—how to put this kindly?—“lacking”; a brain that seems to function decently on most occasions, excepting those episodes when spousal duties require that I tend to the amigos by myself for a prolonged (i.e., 3 hours or more) period; and whatever interpersonal or vocational “abilities” I possess, a limited but important set of blessings which I’ll leave for others to determine. I hasten to add that these gifts—meager though they may be—are to be shared like all others, and recognized rightly as coming directly from the hand of a loving God. This list, too, would cause the slaughter of several trees were I to supply the inventory in unabridged form. The more I give the less I need. All I have is Yours.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight arguably the greatest-though-usually-least-appreciated-gifts I’ve received: failure and suffering. Like you, I’ve experienced these in wide-ranging forms and at varying depths. Some were bitter pills, but so superficial or ridiculous they merit little consideration. Others were psychic tsunamis that tore me apart and temporarily left me wondering whether God really exists and, if so, asking “what do You think You’re doing?!” But in due course my failures miraculously ushered additional favors my way and brought me closer to other souls and to a benevolent God who sees and knows all (including the tears I’ve shed and the shoddy sins I’ve committed). They’ve taught me a great many lessons I would never have learned otherwise, including that all the blessings I enjoy here and now are temporary and belong ultimately to the One who granted them in the first place. And they’ve placed me in the position—repeatedly, sorry to say—to receive failure’s close cousin and the most splendid and powerful gift of all: Forgiveness.
Your kingdom come, Your will be done. All I have is Yours.
Timothy Swensen is the author of the weekly column series Virtue and Mischief that is published every Tuesday in The Daily Advocate. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in these opinion pieces are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.