Author’s note: I am now the proud father of 1-year-old twins. Their birthday was over the weekend. So I thought that perhaps it would be appropriate to post something I wrote way back in 2011, right around the time they were born.

The other night I had to put some furniture together. Before I go on, you must know that there’s nothing I dislike more on this earth than putting furniture together. If my job involved putting together furniture, I would most likely go to hell. Not Rob Bell’s hell either, I’m talking about the real one, with fire and gnashing. There’s just something about that little allen wrench, and those little washers that get under my skin. They make me say and think things that aren’t human, things that only people who go to hell would say.

When I finally assemble a piece of furniture, I look like I was mugged and beaten, by veneer. The instructions sheet is torn to pieces, the allen wrench is embedded into the drywall, and my conscience is about as clear as my garage. It’s kind of like a battle, like in ‘Braveheart’, only there are no skirts or other people, or horses. Come to think of it, it’s nothing like ‘Braveheart’.  It’s just me, the furniture, and cuss words. Also, hell.

But the other night was different. See, I was putting together two cribs. That’s right, two cribs. Not one crib, meaning only one baby. Two cribs, meaning two babies, at once. My wife and I recently had twins. At the time, they were still inside her stomach, but we realized that soon they would be out and would need a place to sleep, which explains the cribs.

It’s funny the reactions you get from people when you tell them you’re having twins. Most people smile, and then say something like “Oh gosh”, or “Wow, good luck with that”. Sometimes the really nice people will say congratulations, but it usually sounds more like a question, like “congratulations?”. People stare a lot too. Probably because I look like I’m 12. They most likely think we’re on ‘Teen Mom 2’, or are on our way to the Dr. Phil show to “figure things out”. And it’s not that I would mind going on the Dr. Phil show either, he seems pretty nice. Plus, he knows Oprah.

Three years ago my wife and I sat on a couch. It was perhaps the ugliest couch I’d ever sat on, yet surprisingly comfortable. The room had wallpaper, and carpet like they have at the airport. On the walls were pictures of female anatomy, not anything inappropriate, they were more like drawings but still uncomfortable for me to look at. Across from us was a doctor, a man who had chosen to spend his life working with female stuff, an odd choice I know, but nonetheless his choice.

I desperately tried to avoid eye contact with him as he discussed things I remembered laughing about in health class. He said words that men just shouldn’t say, especially not to one another. As he continued to talk, I continued to squirm. His tone was serious, almost like he was sad, like he had some bad news. Finally he arrived at his main point, “you can’t have kids”.

I won’t go into detail about our journey from that couch to now, other than to say it was a journey. A journey that left us grateful. And gratefulness changes us. So the other night as I unpacked all the pieces and opened the instructions, it felt different than my previous encounters with the allen wrench. It was like I had a whole new attitude. It seemed more like a privilege, really, with this set of furniture. Instead of feeling frustrated by something else to do, I felt grateful for such an opportunity, an opportunity that we thought would never come.

As I slowly pieced together the rails and frames, I couldn’t stop thinking about that couch, the ugly yet comfortable one. And I couldn’t get those words out of my head, ‘you can’t have kids’. I thought about how God worked even when it didn’t feel like He was working, about how close He really was when He felt so far away. I was grateful. Grateful for getting to put together a nursery, grateful for the allen wrench and washers, grateful for stuff I don’t deserve.

See, gratefulness really can change us. It can change our thinking, our attitudes, shift our desires. The other side of gratefulness is entitlement, something I’ve lived with for a long time. It’s a ‘you-owe-me’ kind of attitude, an irrational expectancy. It’s an attitude I had on that couch, and all those times I yelled at God for not doing what I wanted. Living with a sense of entitlement is frustrating, really. There’s lots of anger and pouting and fear. But gratefulness is different. Gratefulness can change us.

If there’s one direction I believe God wants to push us all towards, it’s in the direction of gratefulness. I think He knows that when we live grateful lives, we inch closer to the people we were made to be. When we fully grasp what’s been done for us, we can live differently. We can live lives grateful for each opportunity, opportunities that we thought would never come.

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Categories: I Digress

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