When we think of Thanksgiving, it is traditional to think of “giving thanks” for all of the things for which we are thankful or grateful. It is tradition to do so. It is also a tradition among some as they are gathered to share a meal to go around and express one thing for which they are grateful.
It becomes a rather straightforward exercise to express one’s gratitude for the temporal things in this life – food, shelter, family, friends, job, and even good health. How about contemplating for a moment the things to be grateful for over which we exercise no control?
How is it that the first molecule was formed from absolutely nothing? How is that anyway? And how about the creation of the first life-giving carbon atom? And life’s breath breathed into the first living creature. How is it that humans have been so significantly distinguished as unique beings from animals? How could that be? Who is responsible for that?
You did not select the era in which you were born. You could have been born during one of the two World Wars, been called into service and died an early death as many did as they fought for our freedom. You could have been born a pioneer, struggling simply to stay warm and fend off disease while caring for your young family in a sod hut in the plains of North Dakota. Or how about being born into a time when people were persecuted and oppressed for living out their faith when the only choice they had before them was to risk it all to leave the only place they’d ever known and climb aboard a ship bound for a wilderness that is now called America?
How about the lack of control over the place in which you were born? You could have been born in present day West Africa – Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone which have been ravaged by the Ebola virus in recent years, striking the terror of likely death to those afflicted. How about being born into one of over one hundred nations, over half of the population of this planet, that is required to figure out how to live on $2 or less per day? Or you could have been born into nation involved in one of the 28 wars or conflicts currently happening. The residents of these nations live in constant fear that they or a loved one may be at any moment plucked from their family at any moment.
But you were born here. You were born in this time. You were born in this place. You were brought into life, not by your choice, not through your own efforts. But somehow, you were given all this. By someone, you were given all this.
Is your life good? That is a serious question. What do you believe about your own life?
Sure, this life has its challenges. At some point we all face an inevitable physical death. Sorry to be so blunt, but its true and you know it. But how about the time defined by the dash, you know, on the headstone in the graveyard. It shows both the date of birth and the date of death. On a headstone, life is defined by the dash between the numbers. How about life in the dash?
During life we experience hardships, physical ailments and struggle, we suffer loss and heartache, financial worries and relationship pains to only name a few. We all do experience a range these things and more.
So let’s think of the glass as half-full. How about the breaks in life others provided? The occasional financial windfall of a tax return that was better than expected. The times in life you felt strong and well. Your closest friend taking time to listen to your concerns over a cup of coffee. The most beautiful sunset over a lake. A double rainbow. Fresh air we breathe. Even having the capacity and ability to receive this message right now, is a gift.
In many instances, when we “thank” someone, and by the nature of the act, someone is the object of the thanks. We thank a waiter for refilling our beverage. We smile and thank someone for opening the door for us. We express gratitude and say “thank you” for those who step in the gap when we have a need that we are unable to manage on our own. In those cases, we say “thanks.
But how about in those instances when we have been given so much good over which we acknowledge we exercise no control? Who is the object of our thanks?
That’s the biggest question in life. Who is the object of my thanks for all of the goodness in my life that I didn’t control and to be fully honest, don’t deserve. I didn’t do anything to earn that goodness. If you are asking that question, you might be closer to the answer than you think.
When the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the church in Ephesus, he included this clear direction in his letter about who is the object of our gratitude over things which we don’t control. In Ephesians 2:8-9 he wrote, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. “
So we didn’t control our origin, we don’t pick the day we leave this life and we don’t control our destiny. We don’t control any of this except for one thing – the decision over who is the object of our faith over those things which we have no control. That’s the key decision and the most important decision in life.
Father, we have good lives. Sure, we all have aspirations and hopes of things to be different in some way, but when we survey the whole scene of our life and put this into a global and historical time context, we have good lives. This doesn’t mean everything is good or everything feels good, but on the whole, it is good. It is good. Today on this day of Thanksgiving, we express our gratitude over all the things over which we exercise no control and yet were delivered to us. All of those things summed up brought us to this place in life, right here, right now, and it is good. It is good because you are good and you want good for us. So thank you for the way you provide for us. For the way you deliver for us. For the goodness that we don’t control and thank you for controlling those things in a way in which I sometimes can see that I benefit. So today we are thankful and express our gratitude to you for your goodness and your mercy and your grace for all your good gifts that you offer freely to us – and especially the gift of eternal life which we also don’t deserve, none of us do, but it’s another of your free and generous gifts to us. So thank you. In the name of your Son, Jesus, we pray, Amen.
– revised from the post first published in November 2015