So there it was—Thanksgiving Sunday—and I was doing my best to get into it. I want thanksgiving to characterize my life every day of the year, so it felt especially sad that on this weekend that our Canadian forefathers and mothers set apart to give special thanks, I was full of self-pity. Yuck.
I know sometimes thanksgiving is a sacrifice; we’re to give thanks anyway, even when it feels hard. Often that choice—to give thanks anyway—opens my eyes so I can see again how good God is, and joy creeps in and my thankfulness switches from something I’m doing out of sheer obedience to something I’m doing because God is so big and so good and loves me so much that what’s not to give thanks for?
But there are days—like yesterday—when I want to feel thankful, I try to give thanks anyway, and my eyes stay glued shut and my self curved in and my thanks stays tasting like cardboard. I wondered why.
So I asked.
“God, You are so good—there’s enough in Your character to keep me giving thanks forever. And on top of that you’ve poured out so many other blessings. Why don’t I feel thankful even when I want to, even when I’m trying to give thanks?”
“It’s hard to give thanks for a gift you’ve just pushed away.”
I think we’ve been here before, He and I.
I can feel deeply thankful in the middle of illness, in the middle of grief, in the middle of just about anything—as long as I feel loved. And since God’s love for me never changes, when I’m not feeling loved, it’s because I’m pulling away, or pushing him away.
So I ask another question, one that I plan to keep handy for every time thanksgiving fails to open my eyes, “Jesus, where am I pushing away your love?”
A string of questions follows:
- Am I insisting on carrying burdens that God wants to carry for me?
- Am I berating myself (perhaps for not feeling thankful enough?) while God is whispering that he loves me and just wants me back in His arms?
- Am I refusing to receive His love through the hands of a friend? Failing to rest when He invites me to? Prioritizing the do-list over the moment of celebration He has invited me into?
He brings me back once more to a prayer that helps me stop pushing Him away:
I receive your love,
and this day as a gift from you.
I open my heart to you.
Please lead me deeper
into your transforming love
as we live these next hours together.
And as I give thanks for Grace that always welcomes me home and Love that wants me to know I’m loved and parents who listen and a friend who drives, my cardboard thanksgiving catches fire and I wonder if the world will end before I run out of things to give thanks for. And this—this Love in which we find ourselves—is the flame that turns thanksgiving to thanksliving and moves us out to change the world.