Giving Thanks in All Things

November 24, 2021 by

Giving Thanks
Rockwell, Norman. Freedom from Want. 1943. [Oil on canvas].

Being thankful and giving thanks are not the same thing. “Being thankful” is a feeling. It is a good feeling. But being happy about one’s fortunes is one thing, giving thanks is another.

Thanksgiving should be about giving thanks, which comes from the heart to another. As a child I could never quite put the Thanksgiving holiday and giving thanks together. Part of the problem was the fact that I grew up in a happy, prosperous home with a mother and a father who did their best to provide for us. But during the Holiday Season something went missing, especially at Thanksgiving.

Aunt Dorie would always drink too much and weep at the table. No one ever knew why, and no one asked. Grandpa was often on unspeaking terms with Grandma. My older brother would usually show his face only at the meal. Otherwise, he was conspicuously absent. In trying to make everything perfect, Mom would always have a migraine, and Dad would be steaming because Mom didn’t feel well. All the while, the Detroit Lions stormed our living room, making it impossible for anyone to do anything except sneak as many appetizers as possible.

Oddly enough, Thanksgiving dinner was the only time Dad prayed his own “grace.” He would quietly, almost tearfully, thank God for the many blessings that had been bestowed upon us. I always waited anxiously for something more, something of love to break in after the prayer, some hidden secret of gratitude in Dad’s heart that he would reveal to us, something that would lift our eyes off the table so that we could see and appreciate each other. But the business of carving the turkey and passing dishes always swung into full swing.

Our Thanksgiving meal never lasted long. And despite the lavishness of everything, I always felt a gnawing emptiness. How could everything be so good and right when I felt so isolated and estranged? Why couldn’t we give thanks for one another?

Thanksgiving is a good tradition, but I wonder whether if in all the feasting we miss what is most important. When was the last time you or I really thanked someone – thanked them for who they are, for the deeds of kindness they show, for just being there? When have you last looked into the eyes of your son or daughter, mother or father, wife or husband and expressed gratitude for their life? What about your employer or employee, even your neighbor?

When we give thanks to our heavenly Father are we actually thanking Him or are we just glad to have a good meal? In the Bible we read: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you.” Giving thanks, in the most profound sense, involves far more than just counting our blessings. Giving thanks is about acknowledging with joy God’s will in our lives, including those with whom he has put us with.

In the end, giving thanks is a matter of showing it. “No one has seen God; but if we love each other, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” So writes Jesus’ disciple John. I think this also applies to giving thanks. If we forget or fail to show our gratitude to and for each other, then what good is having our plates full of turkey and dressing?

This year’s Thanksgiving can be different, but only if our focus is on our fellowship, not on the feast. When we meet each other heart-to-heart, our souls are filled. Though many of us won’t be able to spend Thanksgiving dinner with our families, or with our friends, all of us can still give what we long for most. We can each give each other ourselves, and in so doing help each other rediscover what gladdens our hearts most: Love. We can never get or give enough of that.

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Charles E. Moore

Charles E. Moore

Charles E. Moore and his wife Leslie live in Denver, CO, where they form a small house community with friends and visitors...

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