Yesterday was Thanksgiving. How did you do? Everybody okay?
I’ve always told folks Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I like how no one is excluded from celebrating Thanksgiving, unless they choose to exclude themselves. I think the concept of the holiday is brilliant. Get together with people you’re supposed to care about, and think about the things for which you are supposed to be thankful. That’s a great exercise. The ability to be thankful is an incredibly important skill. Gratitude is the fundamental building block of happiness. You can’t be happy without it.
I like to think that I am really good at gratitude. The vast majority of my prayers are prayers of thanksgiving. I’m thankful for my incredible wife, who works so hard and is so good at everything she does. I am thankful for the life we’ve built together. I am over-the-moon grateful for our three kind, clever, hilarious daughters. I am thankful that my bosses haven’t fired me yet for gross incompetence. I am grateful ALL. THE. TIME!!!
Okay, well, that’s not really true.
I like to think I’m grateful, and I like to say that I’m grateful. I like to tell people all the things for which I am grateful. But closer to the truth might be that I’m selectively grateful. Facebook grateful. I have my go-tolist of things that I trot out when I want to sound grateful. But if I’m being honest, I kind of get the feeling that I’m missing the point.
All of this reminds me of a Bible verse. (Okay, well, that’s also not really true. I just felt like this was where something Bibley should come into the church newsletter, so I Googled “Bible verses about gratitude.”) I believe it was James who wrote in the first chapter of the Book of James, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3) And I’m assuming it must have been ‘Thessalo’ who wrote in his first published letter, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
I get the sense from these verses that I’m not supposed to just have a handy little list of the things for which I am thankful. If I am to believe the words of James and Thessalo, then I am supposed to be thankful about all of it. The trials as well as the triumphs. That sounds like an impossible challenge. How can I be thankful for the cancer that took Mom away from me? On the other hand, if these guys are right, and I can be thankful in all circumstances, then there actually is a reason for me to be grateful for that cancer. Maybe it’s that it wasn’t a surprise, and we all got to say goodbye. Maybe it’s that it came after Mom found Jesus again. Maybe it’s that it brought my sister back into my life.
And maybe it’s that I get to seek and find the blessings in everything. Always. What a gift.