“giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
My posts about Thanksgiving have been notoriously late the past two years; however, it might just be because it takes me the extra time to soak up and learn what the Holy Spirit wants to teach me through this holiday. See, I love that Thanksgiving is an American holiday that we celebrate for many, many reasons. (Obvious reasons would be time with family and friends, time off work, THE FOOD, etc.) But I also love that this holiday, which sadly lacks a lot of the spiritual emphasis it once had, can still cause us to take time to pause, reflect, and give thanks for the bounty God has provided. See, I want to have a grateful heart, and Thanksgiving is one way that God can remind me to be thankful (although, I want to remember this throughout the whole year, and not only on this one holiday).
But I’ll take the Holy Spirit’s teaching in any form that it comes, and this year, it came through my questioning of making a “Top 10″ list of things I’m thankful for. It’s not that I didn’t have ten things to list – Oh, I could probably list a thousand! (I mean, I became a Mom this year! How could I not be thankful for this precious gift?!) But as I started questioning why I wasn’t quick to make lists of things I’m thankful for, the Holy Spirit brought to mind my struggle with this whole thing. Pride. Idolatry. These are things I struggle with, and listing out things I’m thankful for (in my mind at the time), only worsened these sins. See, listing things I’m thankful for on a blog or other public forums, for me, can become about pride. It can become about listing out (in a prideful way), all the things that I have. It can also deepen my idolatry of these things because I often struggle with worshiping the creation instead of the Creator. The gift instead of the Giver.
But is my sin really enough to get in the way of my having a grateful heart? Of my taking time (hopefully each day), but at least once a year to really stop and reflect and say thank you for all that God has given me? As I prayed through this issue this past week, the Holy Spirit said in a my heart a resounding, “NO!” These sins of pride and idolatry should not lead to yet another sin of lack of gratitude. So what is the answer then? How can I make sure to cultivate a sense of gratitude for all that God has blessed me with, but also make sure that I don’t build up my pride in these things or my idolatry of these things?
The Lord is good, and He is the best teacher. His Holy Spirit whispered to me, “Love these blessings I have given to you, but love Jesus more. He is the greatest blessing. He will never leave you nor forsake you. God has not only saved you (from sin and death), but he has also adopted you to be his child. He gives you great things because he is a good God who loves his children, and you are one of HIS. But remember that these earthly blessings he has given to you will pass away, but He will not pass away. He is eternal, and you will never be separated from him because Jesus was separated from him on the cross so that you never have to be. Love the things God has given you, but cherish and love God himself more.”
Wow. Ok, God. I think I get it. I’m sure I’ll need some more reminders along the way, but thank you for teaching me this delicate balance. I want to acknowledge your goodness, graciousness, and provision, but help me to remember that all of these things were most greatly displayed as you sent your son to die the death that I deserved so that I could live a life that that I could never earn. And in following with this teaching, my family did start a tradition of a “gratitude walk” after Thanksgiving dinner. We just walked and talked about all that God has blessed us with. It was a sweet time.
My prayer has now become that I would continually be “giving thanks always and for everything” while remembering that Jesus is truly everything. I also pray that I would be grateful for all that I have been blessed with here on earth, but that God would protect my wicked heart from doubting his goodness if any of these great blessings are ever removed. I want to make sure that my worship is directed in the right place – always worshiping the Giver over the gift.
As we prepare for this holiday season, I pray that my heart (and the hearts within my family) will continue to cultivate a sense of gratitude as we prepare to anticipate the coming of baby Jesus. Ann Voskamp writes, “Thanksgiving always precedes the miracle,” and I pray that we prepare our hearts to celebrate the miracle of the manger by “giving thanks always and for everything.”
Here’s a prayer that I found on another blog which has also inspired and encouraged me this holiday season: