Sometimes “Thanks” Isn’t Enough

Giving thanks for good things received is a good practice to establish. It recognizes that one is dependent upon the efforts, gifts, and sacrifices of others; it builds the soul by accepting the fact that we need other people, humbling ourselves in the process. Saying thanks says we cannot repay everything done for us. It grants value and dignity to the one who has given or acted on our behalf. One memory I’ll always have goes back to my college days at Penn State, where I was running across the campus, taking every conceivable short-cut in order to arrive at Rec Hall by tip-off time for a basketball game. My route took me through a building where the door was being approached by a female student supporting herself with braced crutches. She stopped—and held the door for me. That was humbling indeed, and I had to stop long enough to give thanks. Not nearly long enough.

Today I pause from the theological, philosophical and sometimes political ideas generally filling this page. I do so to say thanks, knowing it isn’t nearly enough to scratch the surface of the debt. Today my parents, Eugene and Elsie, celebrate their 63rd wedding anniversary. Sixty-three. Yes, I know it isn’t any kind of record, but it is noteworthy nonetheless; and I write this not only in their honor, but in honor of all other couples of similar standing, whose contributions to the communities we live in will not be accounted by donations or inscribed on memorials. Instead, they will be found, for those who take the time and care to look, in the fabric of communities themselves. They are the ones who did not take the easy way out, who thought their children’s success to be worthy of every sacrifice they needed to make, whose investments consisted of love, care, character, and faith.

We seriously undervalue the models of marriage in the culture. In the church, we look (in true biblicist fashion) for the perfect scriptural definitions and guidance to create Christian marriages. We overlook how much this ignores what actually is given in terms of the few marriages of which we get a glimpse in the Bible itself. Do we really want to use Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Leah and Rebecca, or maybe Judah and—oh, wait, that was his daughter-in-law, or David and . . . as our models? Do we realize that virtually every instance of a “real” family in the Bible was an instance we would immediately recognize as dysfunctional? But we do gain insight into how to do it better from scripture; not just the text of scripture, however, but from them only as the principles are inculcated into a real husband and wife, raising real kids with real challenges. Challenges like serious illness, even death; challenges like loss of work, growing desires of the children to do more things in more places, dangers of wrong associations, balancing school, church, social and other legitimate demands.

That’s what it was like for my parents. I have three brothers, and three sisters, one of whom was lost to us at the age of seven after a short, excruciating illness. The one thing we never lost sight of, in spite of anything and everything life threw at us, was faith. Not words of faith, but the real thing expressed in all the little things—such as the little stacks of coins we would each be given to contribute to different offerings to be received at church, all lined up on a table for us as we headed for the door, ready to pile into the car (before seat belts and most other standard safety measures we are all well accustomed to now) for another trip to the country church in Hosensack.

Neither Mom nor Dad had an opportunity to go to college. They did, however, value our education, even though the income was insufficient to provide the funds for us to attend. Yet all of us did receive some sort of post-secondary education. The influence spread by their children and grandchildren is quite far-reaching considering their humble beginnings as age nineteen, when vows were exchanged. A pastor, two teachers, a professor, and business owner, and a commercial artist among the children. The next generation is well underway in similar pursuits. The number of people touched through them is staggering, and does not include the many other lives that have passed through that little country church since we all moved on.

I just want to say thanks. And I ant to encourage anyone who reads this to consider making the uplifting and recognition of all like my parents, who quietly, yet faithfully, make it possible for others to believe that God really does do things with people who trust Him.