Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Mystery Grab Bag

I've been in a happy-dappy celebration mood for the past week. Last Tuesday, I took my last exam of my first semester of seminary.

Didn't think I'd make it. School is significantly more challenging (read: more work) than I thought it would be. When my professor said to me on my second day of classes, "How are you?" I looked at him with glazed, dazed eyes and replied, "I don't know why I'm here."

And I meant it. I'm not sure how I landed in seminary, and my emotions have fluctuated from unworthiness to awed gratitude. Mostly the latter. So last Tuesday, I handed in my exam and waltzed out of class. I pumped my fists in the air and squiggled around a bit. (I would have danced, but unfortunately my school frowns on that practice unless it's choreographed. And my happy dance would have been entirely ad lib.)

Suddenly, I felt very wiggly, and realized this wasn't the happy dance--it was the potty dance. Apparently, exams have that effect on me.

I popped into the ladies room and immediately was drawn not to the potty, but to a basket full of polka-dotted goody bags. Above them was a sign that said "take one," and explained these were from the women's activities coordinator. Exuberant, I grabbed one.

As soon as I had the bag in my hand, I noticed there was one open bag. Hmm, I thought, looks like someone's been choosing which goodies they wanted in their bag. I was tremendously tempted to peek inside, but decided I liked the idea of this surprise gift. So I completed my bathroom tasks and went on my way, my goody bag in tow.

I'm not so great with surprises, so as soon as I was out of the bathroom door, I ripped into my goody bag. Inside was a pack of cheddar crackers, snack-size Snickers and Butterfinger candy bars, and a full-size bag of Skittles. Jackpot! I'd already crammed three crackers into my mouth when the thought hit me: What was in those other goody bags? Were there things I would have perhaps enjoyed even more?

I shook my head at the silly thought. This bag was a gift. I didn't do anything to earn it, really--I just showed up in the gals' bathroom at the right time. And when I'd ripped it open, I'd been thrilled. It was crummy that the thought of "what did other people get" was ruining my goody bag experience.

Then I took a hard look at the bag. The bag itself was beautifully cheerful; it even included my favorite colors. The crackers were incredibly satisfying; after taking that long test, I'd been ravenous. And Snickers is my favorite candy bar. Everything in the bag had been good, and some things were particularly delightful to me.

Having just taken my last seminary exam, I naturally made a quick spiritual application: My fabulous goody bag was like the gifts God gives me. They include stuff I like and stuff that helps me. In many ways, I can see how God's gifts to me are perfect. But sometimes, I wonder about those other "goody bags." What did God give to others? Would I have enjoyed their goody bags more than my own?

Then I thought back on my first semester of seminary. I was immediately filled with that familiar awed gratitude. The goodies God gave me--my talents, my personality, my appearance, my God-given blessings--are perfect for me. They are treats, and they are also gifts; I wasn't entitled to any of the goodies. I'm gonna work on being happy with my own bag. And I'm gonna work on being happy that everyone else has treats, too, without begrudging that theirs are just as good as mine.

To ponder:
1) Do you ever feel dissatisfied with the life God's given you? Do these feelings ruin your enjoyment of stuff you know is good in your life?

2) Why do you think it's so hard for people to be content?

3) What are some things that remind you life is good?

4) Make a list of 10 things for which you're grateful. Try to include a mix of internal (stuff you like about yourself) and external (stuff you like about your circumstances) blessings.


Anonymous said...

Thanks again for yet another wonderful and thought-provoking column. I'm going to share it with the women in my Bible study--hope you don't mind. I think it works really well with what we're talking about this week--the chapter in James that talks about wealth.
Anyway thanks again and congratulations on doing so well in seminary! I know when I went through it (at least one year) that it was difficult but rewarding on so many different levels. Good luck on your future studies!

Holly said...

Cool! Thanks for your encouraging words, Tina. I figure God has me in school for some reason right now, so I better do the work to prepare myself for whatever's next. Let me know how your Bible study discussion goes.