Here's a math problem for you. All I did was make one batch of mashed potatoes, yet when all was said and done, I had four giant bowls soaking in sudsy water to get all of the potato-ness off of them, approximately 9,000 utensils scattered in the sink and took out two bags of trash in the last six hours.
How does that happen? If Rachael Ray or Martha Stewart ever need a replacement... don't call me.
But the potatoes... oh. my. word. They almost didn't make it to my aunt's for Thanksgiving because I may or may not have kept sneaking tastes. They are full of bad things. Heavy cream. Buttttah. Cream cheese. Don't look at me like that. It was a holiday. Go with it.
Annnnnyway, Thanksgiving. I feel like I won't be a good American unless I list all the things I'm thankful for, just like everyone else is doing. But that seems so... so... routine. Don't get me wrong, I am thankful for a lot of things. I understand the value of a grateful heart. But I'm wondering if I really know what thankfulness means.
I came across this Thanksgiving poem last week that just rubbed me the wrong way. It starts out like this:
Even though I clutch my blanket and growl when the alarm rings, thank
You, Lord, that I can hear. There are many who are deaf.
Even though I keep my eyes closed against the morning light as long
as possible, thank You, Lord, that I can see. Many are blind.
I think you can imagine why I found that a little offensive (!). The poem goes on to give thanks for things like family (because there are many who are lonely), food (because there are many who are hungry) and work (because there are many who don't have a job).
It's okay to be thankful for those things. But the motivation behind the gratitude in the poem is all wrong. Being thankful that you have something that someone else doesn't isn't really gratitude, but superiority.
The whole poem is really just one complaint after another. Paraphrased, it is basically saying something like:
"Poor me, I have to listen to my alarm shrill at me day after day, and I'm forced to leave my warm, cozy bed and work for The Man just so I can come home to crying children and a demanding spouse and burned toast in a modest house... but at least I'm not like those people! Even though I'm not really getting what I want, that's okay, because it could be so much worse."
Are we really that backwards that instead of truly being humbly thankful for what we do have, we're begrudgingly noting that at least someone else is worse off than we are? What we're really doing then is assuring ourselves that we're still awesome, that we've still got one up on everyone else. This isn't really a poem of Thanksgiving, but one of entitlement. It assumes that life should be free of restrictions and authority and cold and ruined food and illness and trials. That we are special and awesome enough to deserve a perfect life and have right to pitch a fit when it doesn't go our way.
I know this because I get behind the wheel of a car every day. I don't know what it is about driving that makes me act like a three year old, but it does. I mean, people are driving in my lane. What is up with that? I did not tell them they could be there. Why are they driving so slow? Don't they know that the speed limit thingy is just a suggestion? I have someplace to be and they are slowing me down and don't they know I will be late for work if they don't MOVE. IT.?! I act like I'm the only person on the highway who has schedule to keep. All of a sudden, everything becomes about me and my need to get somewhere and everyone who stands in my way is an enemy.
And the truth is that I live my life this way too. I don't know how to be thankful because I assume I'm entitled to live the way I want. It's hard to say "thank you" when you're distracted by the fact that your internet connection isn't fast enough or that the kitchen isn't big enough or the weekend isn't full enough. Then trying to fake an attitude of gratitude (cue cheesy sound effect) by mumbling, "Well, at least I'm not like that guy!" just doesn't cut it.
I think true thankfulness starts with humility, with recognizing who you really are (a sinner, not awesome and yucky), what you really deserve (wrath, hell and death) and what you got instead (grace, mercy and life). Only by breaking the illusion of entitlement will I really be thankful.
Which means I've got a long, loooooooong way to go.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. - Ephesians 2:1-10