Take time to tell God what you are thankful for, not just on Thanksgiving, but every other day, too
The church I attended several years ago had a Thanksgiving practice of having members stand to share what they were thankful for. From my perspective this never went well, with too much silence or too much forced sharing and sometimes both.
One year a man kicked things off by saying how thankful he was for his wife, spending too much time listing her many attributes, which I perceived as overly generous exaggerations. Though I’m sure he earned points from his beloved, his gushing made me squirm.
With the precedence set, the second man to speak did the same thing for his wife. Now we a had a pattern.
Going forward, each person—both male and female—who spoke, opened with a spousal tribute. Anyone who did not do so would surely look like a clod and risk spending the night on the couch.
This all came to mind a few days ago when church asked us to write a note of what we were thankful for. As a writer, you’d think I’d be all over this, but I write in solitude and can’t come up with a single cogent thought when trying to write in public.
Besides, my wife was sitting next to me eyeing my blank paper. I had to list her first, right? (By the way, I am thankful for her.) After her, I’d need to follow with all members of my immediate family. (I’m thankful for them, too.) But how far should I go?
At whatever point I stopped, the implication would be that I wasn’t thankful for the next person in my family tree. It’s a slippery slope.
Next I thought about friends: best friends, close friends, valued associates, casual acquaintances, the neighbor I wave to but haven’t yet met, the clerk at the post office, my best friend from high school who I haven’t seen in years, and that one guy I met one time who God keeps reminding me to pray for.
Where do I draw the line?
Then I thought about things. Yes, I’m thankful for them, too, but to make a list of valued possessions would paint me as materialistic. Can’t have that.
What about less tangible things: good health, a job, the ability to work, the chance to help others, having family nearby and all living in the same state, a comfortable life, and so on?
Listing these things might seem like boasting of God’s blessings on my life, thereby causing pain for others who weren’t so fortunate. I would never want that.
I was running out of time to make my list. Some people had finished theirs, but my paper was still blank. Then I came up with a great idea. What if I wrote down the one thing I am most thankful for? That might be doable.
The answer came quickly: God. But he’s the answer to most everything. I needed to be more specific. Then I found clarity: I’m thankful for the love of God.
If we have God’s love, which we do, everything else is secondary. Yes, I’m thankful for family and friends and possessions and blessings, but mostly I’m thankful that God loves me—and that God loves you, too.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.
Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.