Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Give Thanks!

Dear Friends,

Those of you who know me may have noticed the scar. About an inch long, it runs vertically through my eyebrow and down to the very top of my right eye. It’s where I was hit in the face with the sharp edge of a shovel when I was six years old. If the point of the shovel had been ½ inch lower it would have been embedded in my eye. If you hadn’t noticed the scar, I typically don’t either. In fact, for the longest time, I’d forgotten it was there. Then one Thanksgiving morning, a few years ago, I looked in the bathroom mirror and saw that old scar as if for the first time. At that moment, I realized that I had never thanked God for saving my sight and began wondering what else I’d never thanked Him for. I thought of when I was young man and engaged to the hot-blooded Sicilian girl who broke our engagement by trying to kill me with a butcher knife. I realized that I had never thanked God for saving me from a marriage to her!

And then like a slide show, face after face from my past appeared in my mind and I realized that I’d never thanked God for Father Barnes, the rector at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, who believed that I needed to start serving God as an acolyte when I was only nine and who started me on the path to God that I’m still on today. Many other faces came to mind and I thanked God for them. I still do. And perhaps you are now remembering your own scars and the times God bailed you of a bad circumstance. Or maybe like the country song “Thank God For Unanswered Prayers,” God didn’t give you what you’d prayed for and gave you something or someone better. Are you seeing faces of people you’ve never thanked God for?

Every Thanksgiving, I think of an Episcopal priest named Father Tim. He was a fictional character in a series of books written by Christian author Jan Karon about life in a small town called Mitford. And in one story, Father Tim wondered: What if God took away from him everything that he had not thanked God for?

That’s something to just stop and think about. What if God did take away from us everything we had not been thankful for? Would I have my right eye? For over sixty years I had never thanked God for saving it from the blade of that shovel! What if everything God gave you, that you never thanked Him for, disappeared in a flash? What would you have left in your house? Would you even have a house? What would you have left in your life? Would you still have your health? Your hearing? Would you still have your Bible? How about your clothes? Would you still have the unique personality that God has gifted you with? 

If God deleted what you never thanked Him for, would you instantly become as dumb as a rock as your intelligence vanished into thin air? Would you still have your sense of humor? Would you still have the ability to discern right from wrong? Would you still have your salvation? Would you still have your love for God? Have you ever thanked God for those things? Maybe even more importantly than what you would have left in your life is who you would have left. If God took away everyone you had never thanked Him for, would you still have all your family? Your friends? The people at your church? Would you still have your dog? Your cat?

When I realized that if I thanked God for everything He has ever given me.. Everything He has done for me.. For every meal I have ever eaten.. For everyone He has sent to bless my life.. Every time He healed me.. Every time He protected me from illness.. injury.. death.. Every time He protected me from my incredibly foolish decisions and actions.. I realized that if I thanked Him for everything He had ever done for me, I’d be thanking Him unceasingly from now until the end of time. And in that “ah-hah” moment, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 immediately came to mind: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

But how about those circumstances when it just seems like it’s impossible to be thankful? Because let’s face it. We don’t just cruise through this life on easy street. The truth is that Jesus said: “In the world you will have tribulation..” and I think that all of us can say “yes and amen” to that. But then we rejoice as Jesus goes on to say, “..but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 

All of us have experienced immense pain and grief in our past. And, here we are today with thankful hearts praising the Lord. How did we get through the trials and tribulations we’ve experienced so far? Because God is always right there in the midst of the worst thing that can ever happen to you.

We can only be truly thankful when our thankfulness is no longer a condition of our circumstances. We are not thanking Him for all things. The scripture says we thank Him in all things because no matter what our circumstances, there is always something for which we can be thankful. And then when we are thankful in all things we find ourselves rejoicing always. And, when we rejoice always, we find ourselves being thankful in all things. 

So let’s enter into a season of Thanksgiving by asking God to show us all the things that we never thanked Him for. Give thanks to God for all that He has given you and done for you. Give thanks even in the tribulations. And as you gather with family and friends, let your loved ones know how grateful you are to God and show them that Thanksgiving is not about a turkey dinner and it never has been. It’s about giving thanks to God. Amen?

No comments:

Post a Comment