Thanksgiving is here, once again.
And, once again, our Facebook newsfeeds and Twitter accounts are full of posts from our friends and families, listing the things we are each grateful for: family, friends, homes, jobs, health.
We have much to be thankful for, friends. I have much to be thankful for.
I have a bed, to sleep in. I have a home, to protect my children in. My cupboard has food in it. I have a job that provides for our needs. I have a church family who also cares deeply for us. I have a car that runs. I have kids who are doing well in school, and in their careers. I have health insurance, and even though it continues to rise–it still provides me healthcare when I most need it. In fact, I’m having surgery tomorrow–and I’ll be doing so in a clean hospital, with highly qualified doctors and nurses to take care of me.
There are many, many, many in this world, who do not have the things I have listed here. It’s cold here in Virginia tonight, and there are homeless nearby who will spend a very miserable night trying to keep warm. There are children tonight in Syria, who will find it difficult to sleep when night falls in that country, because they do not know if they will experience bombing and the destruction of their homes as the conflict rages around them. There are senior adults tonight, who desperately need medication, but whose Medicaid and income will not cover it. And there are mothers tonight, in huts across the Sudan, who have no idea how they will find food tomorrow, to feed their children.
I’ve been giving some thought to Thanksgiving this week–and to the command in scripture to be thankful. We are told, in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, to “Give thanks in all circumstances…” And over and over again in so many Psalms, we are told to “Give thanks to the Lord!” (Psalm 105, 106, 118–the list is long!)
And Colossians 3:15-17 is a very important teaching on thankfulness:
15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
And, we are. We are thankful.
Sometimes I wonder…..
Sometimes I wonder if we who have been so blessed with so much, are unable to truly grasp the indescribable depth of gratitude that we really should have, for the right things. The things of most value. The things we should treasure.
Maybe, just maybe, we have too much; and in having so much, our gratitude–at least, I know that my gratitude–can quickly become shallow. Surface-level. Rote. Routine. A FB post–without much sense of wonder and reverence, for what I have been given.
In 2009, my girl and I went to Kenya on a mission trip. One afternoon, we were asked by the orphanage director to visit some nearby homes of widowed women who had lost their husbands to AIDs.
We spent the afternoon traveling from mud hut to mud hut, checking on the women to determine what needs there might be, that we could assist with. It was an amazing afternoon. I wish I could describe for you, friends, the level of hospitality each woman offered us, in their small one room huts with thatch roofs. We were warmly greeted, and graciously welcomed. It was a beautiful day.
There is one family, though, that I will never forget. A mom and a daughter, and a cow–all sharing the same tiny hut. One chair, one crate, a few cooking utensils–this was the extent of what they owned, with the exception of one thing:
A bright pink jump rope, with sparkly tassels and blue stars.
This jump rope stood out in stark contrast to the mud hut walls and meager belongings. It was still in its wrapper, in pristine condition–and hanging in a place of honor on the wall.
Of course, we were curious about the jump rope; and when we asked about it, the little girl (who was around 9 or 10 years old) became completely animated with excitement. She told us how some people from a church showed up at her hut the year before, and gave her the jump rope. “See how beautiful it is? See all the stars? I love this present. I like to look at it every day. It makes me so happy! I want to thank the mzungu (white person) so many times.”
She treasured that gift. She treasured it so much, that it hung in a place of honor, in their hut. She hadn’t even removed it from the wrapper! She was deeply grateful, for the little pink jump rope–and it brought her much joy.
Tremendous joy…and tremendous gratitude. She had a sense of wonder and reverence for the gift she had been given–something that sadly, I am missing all to often in the face of all that I have been given.
I wonder if her joy and gratitude was magnified by the fact that she had so little, and therefore treasured what she did have so deeply–while I, who has so much, sadly neglect to recognize just how incredibly thankful I should be.
Especially for the gift of salvation–for the gift of God’s son, give to us to be Emmanuel–God with us. Give for us, as a sacrifice to pay for our sins upon the cross, and then to be raised three days later–providing us with the only true hope we have.
In doing some research into Thanksgiving, I found a tremendously helpful article at DesiringGod.org, by Joseph Scheumann, titled Five Truths About Thanksgiving. I found the entire article to be thought-provoking, but these words struck me the most:
We should aim to have our thanksgiving rise in proportion to the value of the object for which we give thanks. Therefore, we should be most grateful for God’s work for us in Christ because it unites us to our highest joy – God himself.
Do you see what Scheumann is saying? The depth of our thanksgiving should be in proportion to the value of the object we are thankful for. And the gift we have each been given that is worth far more than any other gift, is that of God himself–and His grace and mercy and forgiveness and salvation.
I want to be like that little girl in Kenya, whose eyes lit up over that little pink jump rope–because if I can be thankful for small things like that with such fervor, than just imagine how much passion and gratefulness would be felt for the most priceless gift of all–that we have in Jesus Christ, our Lord?
That’s the kind of thanksgiving I want to give in my soul, in response to the verse in Colossians 3:
God. Help us to be thankful–true thankfulness.
Thankfulness that treasures You with wide-eyed wonder and joy, like a little girl in Kenya with a shiny pink jump rope.