“Thanksgiving is just another day to us. We’ll probably go out for shrimp. Yes, it’s just another day.”
I knew what my dejected friend was really saying since her children and grandchildren lived too far away to come home for Thanksgiving. What she meant was, “We just want to get past the day.”
I pondered her statement, feeling just a little guilty that most of our family will be around our table Thanksgiving Day. I am too grateful our home will be full of family in just a few days to be distracted by her remorse. I promised I would pray for her.
If my family was not coming for Thanksgiving, the dining room table stayed dusty and bare, and no turkey would be roasting in the oven, would I, too, brush off the holiday to get rid of it? For unavoidable and unexpected reasons, many people find themselves alone on Thanksgiving. Just last week, a carrier battle group carrying some 7500 men deployed to the Middle East for an extended period of time, leaving their families to celebrate Thanksgiving and several more holidays alone. Will they choose to eat shrimp instead of turkey, or just ignore the day? What about giving thanks?
The extraordinary thing about Thanksgiving Day is that it was founded on giving God gratitude for his provision and protection. It is a whole day of just being thankful! When we are surrounded with our loved ones, sitting at a table decorated with a cornucopia, and inhaling mouthwatering scents of turkey, stuffing, and gravy, we give thanks for our family, home, and good food. But do we consider from whom all this bounty and joy came? Whether in a crowded room with our loved ones, or alone with our memories, do we thank Him enough?
If we were to truly grasp all that God has provided and how He has blessed us, we would not eat turkey or shrimp on Thanksgiving Day; we would fall on our knees in worship.
Thanksgiving is active gratitude for all God does and all He is. It is praising Him for memories of provision and fulfillment, thanking Him for His presence and protection every day, and acknowledging Him for Who He is.
Years ago, we opened our home to a young man who had hit rock bottom and needed a family to help get him back on his feet. We gave him our daughter’s room redecorated into a guy cave, included him in our family routine, and spent hours at the kitchen table talking with him about the love of Jesus.
The Thanksgiving that our new friend was with us, I wanted to do something different so I could hear a chorus of “thank you’s!” from everyone around our food-laden table, rather than “amen” after the blessing, followed by “pass the gravy!” I decided the best way to elicit such a joyful response was for me to find a special gift to give to each of our three daughters, my husband, and our guest. That was such fun for me, “The Present Lady.”
On Thanksgiving Day, I placed a brightly wrapped gift on the table in front of each plate and called everyone to dinner. Confusion changed to delight on their faces as my family sat down in front of their presents.
I announced my reason for the unusual gift giving. “This year I decided to give each of you a gift on Thanksgiving because I am so grateful to God for each of you here at this table!”
As the presents were unwrapped, I heard the symphony I had been waiting for – “Thank you!” “Oh wow! Thank you!” “Thank you so much!” My heart filled up with their praises, and I had an inkling of how God must feel when we so joyfully and enthusiastically give Him our gratitude for His blessings.
When I glanced over to our guest, who was unfolding the shirt I had carefully selected for him, he was looking down, sort of shaking his head.
“Do you like it?” I asked quietly.
His eyes scanned the table covered with holiday bounty, surrounded by the happy faces of a family who had given him acceptance and love over the past several months. Was he allowing himself to be happy once again?
Smiling, he quietly responded, “I guess I never expected this – I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I don’t know how to thank you.”
That humble gratitude hit me like thunder. The love of God – have we ever seen anything quite like it? In our wildest dreams, did we expect the magnificent glory, power, and greatness of God, who made the heavens and earth and sea and all that has ever been in them, to actually be present in our lives? Have we ever known anything at all that wraps around us like the extravagant love of God our Father? How could we even begin to thank Him enough?
Let us give gratitude worthy of Him this Thanksgiving, no matter where we are or who we are with. Make our giving of thanks active! Let every “Thank you”, whether it is for the passing of gravy or a smile from a waitress, be a genuine expression of thanks to include the One who is the Giver of all of our joys, both past and present, and whose Presence will be with us throughout eternity.
“Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1Corinthians 10:31)