Katherine Ladny Mitchell
Being Thankful for Process
As my favorite holiday draws nigh, I like to reflect upon the things I'm thankful for. As a twenty-first century middle-class American, I know I live better than kings of old. I don't draw from a well; I turn on a faucet. I don't make candles; I flip a switch. I don't even chop wood or haul coal; I merely push a button and am soon comfortable. And instead of scribbling with a quill, I can type this message for the world to see.
When you take all these things into account, I have it pretty great. But I've recently made an observation regarding my personal thankfulness:
It's easier for me to thank God for my life's concrete realities than for its less-tangible processes.
It's simpler to quantify the milestones and “done deals” of the past year – gifts tied neatly with a bow. But the day-to-day steps between the milestones and the ongoing ordeals I can't shove into boxes yet, let alone reach for the ribbon.
Processes can be hard to appreciate in an instant-gratification/achievement-driven culture.
We'd rather focus on the graduation than on the education, on the sale than on the service, on the wedding than the relationship, and on the prize than on the process. Don't get me wrong, having end-goals are crucial to keeping the journey on track. And we should celebrate milestones because they validate all the work that led up to them. But if we over-focus on the milestones, I'm afraid we might accidentally undervalue all the steps in between.
This has certainly been true of my writing. It took years to turn my initial concept of a murder mystery into an actual manuscript. I had to develop and redevelop characters. Then came the editing, the beta-reading, the rewriting, further beta-reading, further editing, more rewriting what I'd already rewritten … then I started the agenting process. Researching, querying, and waiting followed by more researching, more querying, and more waiting … Seems tedious, doesn't it?
But if I'm honest with myself, most of my life has been and will be full of processes of all kinds. Whether it was twelve years of homework assignments, four years of college classes, just over a year of dating/engagement, or nine months of pregnancy (several times over in my case), I've had a choice to make. I can either grit my teeth and muscle through the mundane, or I can let my processes shape me for the better and choose to be grateful even when things haven't reached closure yet. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. ~ James 1:4, NIV.
Bottom line: I will be a discontented person if I cannot be thankful for the ellipsis as well as for the period. If I cannot be be thankful for the distance between my milestones, I will not be thankful very often.
And there is always much to be thankful for – regardless of the day of the year. So as I assess 2018 thus far, these are a few things I'm most thankful for:
I am thankful for my Savior, Jesus, who has rescued me from consuming sin, the curse of hell, and a life of self-centered futility. And I'm starting to be thankful for the process of living a life worthy of these realities.
I am thankful for my family, my parents, husband, and children, who have brought so much joy into my life. And I'm (hopefully) growing in thankfulness as I learn to serve them joyfully (particularly in the process of parenting).
I'm thankful for my health and am learning to be grateful for the process of eating more healthy portions and exercising more regularly.
And finally, I am thankful for good stories and am learning to be grateful for the process of crafting and publishing them.
Thanks for reading, and have a happy Thanksgiving!