The question “What are we most thankful for?” will be the centerpiece of conversation for most American families today. Where there is turkey, there is nostalgia. We remember and “give thanks,” whatever that means, for the things God has given us this year.
I asked myself this question this morning as I laced my running shoes and set a slow pace around my quiet neighborhood where I could smell the delicious evidence of the day’s feast.
In answer, I begin making a list. I like lists. They simplify everything my brain likes to complicate. The top bullet of my mental note sheet: my son Charlie. I could write a novel about him and his blessing to my family.
However, I soon realized a pattern, one we as Americans, as humans, cannot help but perpetuate. My list, like everyone’s I’m sure were things I had, things given to me, like health and a job and a loving family.
Absent from this list were things I didn’t have. Things God didn’t give me. Go figure right. Why would we give thanks for things missing, void or deficient in our lives?
Half way through my run, I began a new list.
I am thankful God didn’t give me unspeakable wealth. It taught me to value every dollar.
I am thankful God didn’t give me incredible talent and intelligence. It taught me to work hard for excellence and then to appreciate the journey.
I am thankful God didn’t give me the genes of Olympic athletes. It taught me to be patient in suffering while training my body.
Although at the moment when my lungs burned with cold air, I wouldn’t have minded to have legs like Steve Pre.
I slowed to a walk and saw lines of trees, leaves red, lit by the fall sun. My thought while looking at the sky was that yes I am so very thankful for the things I have.
Don’t mistake this inverse perspective as ingratitude for a blessed life. What I realized, however, is too many of us mistake things we have as the things that bless our life.
In our finite understanding of life, we take for granted the things God taught us by withholding our hearts’ desires.
Although I’m in my mid-twenties, married, employed, healthy and happy, life hasn’t always been easy. And I thank God for that.
I thank God for a childhood rife with family disfunction and bitter heartbreak.
I thank God for a time living paycheck to paycheck.
I thank God for those moments I thought, in ignorance, life couldn’t get any worse.
It could get much worse and sometimes did. But when those hard times came, I found within me a hope and love that only comes from a God who gives and takes away.
This is what I’m thankful for this year. God testing my faith. I’m thankful for His faith in me to trust Him even when life didn’t seem worth the fight.
That’s what He taught me. In the end, life isn’t easy but it’s always worth it.