November 24, 2014

My “I’m Thankful For” List is Too Long

I know, this is a much different tune than when I talked about "I'm Thankful For" Lists: Mom Edition the other day. But on a holiday like Thanksgiving, I think we are meant to do more than make a list of our riches and stuff our faces with turkey.

Here's why:

At Thanksgiving, I like to make this big long list of things I am thankful for. It becomes, in a sense, all of the “reasons” I think I should be grateful.

But sometimes, I wonder if I have Thanksgiving all wrong. Sometimes, I wonder if my “I’m Thankful For” list is actually too long.

I wonder if instead of writing a list at all, I should be asking myself a few questions instead: “Would I still be thankful if…?”

Would I still be thankful if I was empty-handed?

Would I still be thankful if I didn't get everything I wanted?

Would I still be thankful if I made my “I’m Thankful For” list, and God said to me: “I’m going to allow these things to be taken out of your life now.”

Honestly, I don’t know.

I think of Job, the man who had everything: family, health, and wealth. I think of the same man, Job, who had everything stripped away from him: family, health, and wealth.

Yet he still chose to say: Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.

And I wonder, could I stand alongside Job, “naked” of all my earthly possessions and treasures and relationships – and still say, May the name of the Lord be praised?

I think of Ruth, the Moabite woman who married an Israelite. I think of the same woman, Ruth, whose husband was taken from her so young.

And yet she chose to follow her widowed mother-in-law to a foreign land and say: Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.

And I wonder, could I stand alongside Ruth, filled with grief – and still proclaim my faithfulness to God saying, Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay?

I think of Paul, who in every respect of being a Hebrew had the right to boast: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church, as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

And yet he chose to give it all up and say: But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him.

Could I stand alongside Paul, with every reason for “confidence” (whether it is in my upbringing or current circumstances or my “I’m Thankful For” list) and still say: I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him?

I think of our friends Pablino and Victoria in Guatemala, who can be defined by the word “poor” in every respect. Yet they chose to say “Thank you” whenever we visited, and gave us a few eggs out of their poverty for us to take home, and found joy even in their tin shack.

What about when they have bad health and a son who is an alcoholic and no social-security to provide for them? What about when they don’t have a turkey and green bean casserole and strawberry-pretzel-jello dessert sitting on their table even once during the course of a year? What if they have almost none of the stuff I put on my “I’m Thankful For” list?

Because even when their eyes look dead minus the tears flowing out from them, I have heard their lips utter through their pain, Praise God for His surpassing greatness.

What do they have to be thankful for? Are they still even required to be thankful?

I think about the original holiday, and wonder what if the Pilgrims had only harsh winter and no harvest, only the remains of their ships and no cabins, only contagious disease and no healing? Would they have still celebrated the first Thanksgiving?

Would they have still stood and said, Blessed be the name of the Lord?

What if I am just trying to dig deep into my own heart to ask myself this:

Is Christ really enough for me?

What if He was the only thing I had to write down on my “I’m Thankful For” list?

Is He enough for me to say, “I am thankful?”

Is He enough for me that even if my “I’m Thankful For” list was taken away, I could still stand and sing, All of You is more than enough for, all of me, for every thirst and every need? You satisfy me with your love, and all I have in you is more than enough?

Honestly, I don’t know.

It’s easy for me to say “I am blessed” and “I am thankful” when life is peachy and things seem to be going my way. I have been given so many gifts. But these gifts could just as easily be taken away.

Would I still be thankful?

What if I don’t get everything I want in life? What if my future dreams and wishes (as a mom, as a wife, as a professional) don’t pan out?

What if?

Could I still say, I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want?

Can I honestly say that all else aside, Christ is the only real “reason” I have to be thankful?

This year for Thanksgiving, in this land flowing with milk and honey and every other luxury I desire and consume simply because I can afford to; in this land where it is tempting to think “I am thankful because I have so much stuff,” or that “I am thankful because it could be worse,” I want to shorten my “I’m Thankful For” list. I want to ask myself this:

Is Christ enough for me to be thankful for?

Grace and Peace,