Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving was not invented by the Pilgrims.

I am one of thousands and thousands of women who have read Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, and this is not the first time I have used her thoughts as springboards, and I awakened this morning with the book on my nightstand (actually on the floor next to the nightstand because the nightstand is already too crowded with books) thinking about what a posture of gratitude looks in my life.

Because thanksgiving is not just a day, an hour, a few minutes when we bow heads and join hands and say grace over the bounty–

–thanksgiving is a way of being, the posture of my heart, the shape of my mind, the inclination of my thoughts.

It wasn't until after I read One Thousand Gifts that I began to be aware of just how absolutely bursting the pages of the Psalms– my go-to book in Scripture– are with thanksgiving.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!
You are my God, and I will give thanks to You; You are my God; I will extol You. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!
 (Psalm 118: 1, 28-29)

A song bound fore and aft with thanksgiving.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. 
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever! 
(Psalm 30: 11-12)

And this rash, wild burst of thanks (give thanks forever? Holy hyperbole? I think not!) comes after a heartache plea for mercy: To You, O Lord, I cry; and to the Lord I plea for mercy: "What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise You? Will it tell of your faithfulness? Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me! O Lord, be my helper!" 

The darkest moment, when life despairs and the head bows and then after the cry, the folded hands suppliant, out of the darkness comes such reckless declaration: I will give thanks to You forever!

Can I say as much? Can I declare like that? Whatever comes, Lord... no matter what... I will give thanks...?

I awakened thinking of the blessings innumerable: the house! (With room and to spare, to welcome in family and friends.) The Pilot! (Cocooned in blankets and well-deserved slumber beside me, this husband a means of grace a thousandfold over, his arm across me as I snuggle in.) The bounty! (We're brining the turkey and it steeps in broth and spices the way our lives are steeped in abundance.) Welling up, spilling over, gift upon gift, day after day that my eyes used to abundance forget to see and my heart forgets that it is all a gift and...
... a gift undeserved.

Ann's words whisper to me: When I realize that it is not God who is in my debt but I who am in His great debt, then doesn't all become gift?

The lies of the world would have me believe that I am entitled, I am deserving, I have earned and all that comes to me is reward but that is the fastest way to the tight-fisted life, the grasping, the hoarding. Life gluttonous for more but never satisfied.

Ann quotes a Chesterton poem which for a while I taped next to my bed so I could read it at night:

Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?

Why indeed?

Who deserves any grace? Ann asks.

Thus the true Thanksgiving hymn is that which calls this grace for what it is: Amazing!! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch. Lost becomes found, and entitlement become humble kneeling and the hands uplifted.

Thanks becomes more than words but the daily life–

–every day–


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