We just finished Thanksgiving weekend up here in Canada. Yes, we celebrate Thanksgiving earlier than Americans, perhaps because the harvest ends a little earlier up here, or because we’re greedy and want to celebrate our Thanksgiving and the American one later too.
When we were kids, we’d recite grace by memory:
For what we’re about to receive
May the Lord make us truly thankful.
We were hungry and didn’t have time to waste. We said this prayer so often that we slurred the words together, compressing it so quickly that it took hardly any time at all.
It seems a little like a picture of the rest of life.
God has given us so much. We’re not rich — I want to say that, because we have to be pretty careful about what we spend. And yet we are rich. We live better than the richest people who lived just a hundred years ago, and we’re unfathomably rich compared to the average person in the world today. We live in such abundance that we start to measure ourselves against whoever’s slightly ahead of us, rather than what one could reasonably expect to enjoy.
And we’re not just rich materially. A while back I read a book and underlined this line: “Your wife is an amazing gift, and you are flat-out lucky she still loves you, in spite of all your foibles and flat spots and quirks, of which there are plenty.” I feel this. The older I get, the more I appreciate her. And that’s not to mention the gifts of children and a grandson.
But I feel sometimes like I’m living my rushed prayer of thanks before a meal: I recognize God’s gifts in the most cursory way in my rush to enjoy them. I ask God to make me truly thankful without taking the time to be truly thankful for all his good gifts.
One of my goals as I get older is to become more thankful, more aware of God’s grace in all that he’s given me to enjoy. As far as I can see, the only alternative is to become more entitled, and that’s not an option I want to explore.
The payoff for gratitude is rich. According to Robert Emmons, “cultivating gratitude in our life and in our attitude to life allows us to flourish.” Scientists have found psychological, physical, and relational benefits to gratitude.
But that’s not the main reason we should be grateful. We should be grateful because we’re commanded to give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:18). To refuse to give thanks to God is, in some sense, the essence of sin, one of the greatest problems plaguing humanity (Romans 1:21). Acknowledging God and giving thanks to him is no trifling matter.
So I’m repeating the prayer I’ve known my whole life, except I’m trying to go a little slower now and say it with meaning. For all that I have received and continue to receive, may the Lord make me truly thankful. Amen.