As I write this, I’m thinking of some of you slumped into your couches, warm and dozy, bellies full and rounded, resting in the company of your loved ones. Canada, did you have a happy Thanksgiving?
I find it funny that we set aside a day to be thankful. I hope that most of us educate our children on the importance of gratitude every day from the first word out of their mouths. When my children were small, I remember reminding them over and over, on their birthdays, at someone’s door on Halloween, around the Christmas tree, to say thank you. I stopped reminding them at some point, maybe because they started saying it without my prompting.
I was curious to see if Thanksgiving is a worldwide celebration and it’s not. According to an article on Mental Floss, only 7 out of 195 countries in the world celebrate something similar to our Thanksgiving. This certainly makes us distinctive, but does it make us more thankful?
One has to be humble to say thank you. We don’t come out of the womb humble. We come out clamoring for attention and service. When we say thank you, we’re acknowledging that someone added something to our lives that wasn’t there before, something that enriched us. We’re admitting our need, our dependence on others.
Not everyone practices gratitude and I think practice is the key word here, because it’s not our norm. Sometimes, in the physical, mental, and emotional hullabaloo of life this practice gets pushed to the bottom of our to-do list, but, I believe, it should remain at the top. It’s essential for our health and well-being.
The practice of gratitude softens us, wearing away our rough edges. Grateful people are content with what they have and are surprised and delighted with blessings, big and small. Their eye, like a skilled photographer, sees goodness in the simple pleasures and daily graces that others are too busy to notice. They look for things to be thankful for and for people to thank. They recognize their fullness as a gift to be enjoyed and shared, not hoarded. Their gratitude doesn’t fluctuate with their circumstances. When they experience loss, they don’t forget who they are or what they have.
Greedy people are never satisfied with what they have. They look at their lot and see only lack. They compare their lot to others and seethe with envy. They’re consumed by their need to consume, driven to have the best of everything and to be better than everyone else. Gratitude, for them, is an antiquated notion for the simple minded who don’t have what it takes to go out and get what they want.
Entitled people who suffer from the “I deserve it” disease, contracted through advertising campaigns, believe they deserve blessing because they possess certain attributes like good looks, intelligence, and talent or because they work hard and think notoriety and success should be the logical outcome of their labors. This is faulty thinking as there are many attractive, talented, intelligent people who live in relative obscurity despite their efforts to shine and many hardworking people who never know success by North American standards. For the entitled, gratitude is contingent on whether they believe the universe is treating them fairly or not. Any dip in their popularity or pothole in their plans can cause crushing disappointment and quickly sour them on all life.
Avid complainers, the ones who pursue it like a hobby, are too busy being critical to be grateful. We’ve all heard the old maxim, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”, except that these folks seem to not have heard of it or, at least, they don’t subscribe to it and are doing the exact opposite. They’re like smokestacks spewing clouds of exhaust into the air at regular intervals, dirtying the conversations they’re a part of with their choking vitriol.
I wish I could tell you that I rest in a place of gratitude, but I can’t. Sometimes, I take others for granted or I forget to say thank you or I fail to appreciate what I have. Sometimes, I look at what others have and I think I’m missing out or I think I deserve something and when it isn’t forthcoming the indignation wells up and bitterness threatens to take hold. In the past, I’ve rehashed grievances so often they’ve worn a groove in my brain, if not my tongue. It pains me to look at my sin, to know that I had an opportunity to show the world what a devoted follower of Jesus looks like and, instead, I followed my baser instincts. Thank God, Jesus came after me while I was yet a sinner.
I was reading the book of Philippians yesterday. In Philippians 3, Paul is recounting his all-consuming desire to know Christ, to the point where he refers to everything else in his life as garbage, but ends this passionate discourse by essentially saying, “I’m not there yet, but I’m going to keep working at it, because Christ has taken hold of me. I’m going to do the same.”
When my oldest daughter became a teenager, for a while, she shied away from physical affection. We would hug her, even group hug her, and her arms would hang at her sides. Thankfully, this is no longer the case with her and this is not the case for us with our Saviour. Praise be to God! Christ has taken hold of me, of you, of us, for a glorious purpose and, for our part, we must return his embrace. He longs to consume and transform us in the fire of his love, to make us grateful, gracious, generous people, if only we’ll cleave to him with all our might. Our wills may be weak and our arms feeble, but his grace and power will sustain and hold us secure. Like Paul, I’m choosing to “forget what’s behind”, I’m letting go of my guilt and reaching out for my Lord with gratitude in my heart and thanksgiving on my lips. Hold me, Jesus. I’ll do the same.
Complete the experience. Listen to the Katina’s Thank You.
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