At this Thanksgiving season, we're surrounded with written expressions of thankfulness from many writers, leaders, communicators, friends and acquaintances. Some feel forced, some are preachy, some are light easy reading while a delightful few feel truly transparent. What was it that caused me to react negatively to many that I'm sure were written in the deepest sincerity?
First – preachy. While my life thrives based on my relationship with God and what he reveals to me daily from his word as well as his creation, I find that "preachy" sorts of advice are better received audibly than in writing, perhaps in a face to face gathering where affirming feelings are apparent with the relationship being forefront (i.e. unless the reader has been on a particular search for a certain topic). So I need to balance my expressions of God-given gratitude with the struggle the pilgrims and their native American friends and enemies experienced prior to that first celebrative day. Because it's in the struggle that I find God's outpouring into my life to be the most meaningful to someone else.
Second – forced. Thankfulness. It's a nice topic. As Jim Hawkinson used to say, this is the kind of thing " like apple pie and motherhood", no one wants to be against it. So we ask the question and we who love to express ourselves are quick to communicate. But the answers feel glib. A teacher in China asked her students and they all responded the same, "I'm thankful for family and friends and country," but when the teacher responded with more specific, perhaps transparent reasons she was thankful, the students gasped with open mouths.
Third – light. It's always refreshing to read humor and stories written in a light spirit, but when an article about Thanksgiving is all humor, it too feels contrived – as if the person is covering deeper hurts and vacuums and doesn't want to admit he's really struggling with something for which to be thankful.
Fourth – transparent. Those are the ones we all connect to. Because we've all been there, at the edge of the cliff when we weren't sure if the next breeze would just blow us over, when we couldn't imagine how we would ever get to the other side. And at this holiday season, most people have those areas of struggle, perhaps covered by spiritualizing or clichés or comedy but they're there – and it's in hearing those transparent expressions of gratitude from someone else I am inspired to look more carefully at the good things in my life and be grateful – this day and every day.
And so I am grateful – for surviving the difficult moments, for God's grace and love that sustains me when I think it's too hard, for the people in my life who reach out when I can't reach. For the memories of the difficult times because they give perspective to the present. For the hope of the future, for knowing that if I am privileged to awake one more day that there is hope, there is life, and that the most oft quoted and favorite proverb of many in Proverbs 3:5,6 is still true … to trust in the Creator, to recognize His place in my life, and to be confident that he has set the path for the next step on the edge of the cliff.