As I am writing this, we are approaching the Thanksgiving season. Soon, I will gather with other family members and friends, eat some turkey, say what I am thankful for, and then watch a football game. You might be preparing for something similar. Thanksgiving is typically a time of reflection and making wholesome memories in our home. Again, you can probably relate. There is something powerful and healing about Thanksgiving Day. Our grateful attitudes give off a potent aroma as pleasant as a freshly cooked turkey sitting at the table’s center. Here’s the problem though: when we are finished with the holiday- when life carries on- how often do we stop to be express our gratitude for the things that we are thankful for? For me, personally, I may say thank you a few times throughout the year. I may even show my appreciation in a few meaningful ways as time goes by. Yet, I will spend a majority of my efforts and time so caught up in what I don’t have or what I wish to achieve that there is little room in my life to be thankful. This year, I don’t want to express gratitude for a day, I want to have a spirit of thankfulness that carries with me everywhere I go. I would like you to join me in this pursuit of continued gratitude. To get things started, I want to share some blessings that I am thankful for, and why I am choosing not to lose sight of these treasures.
The first thing I want to express gratitude for is my relationship with God. I put this first because He is typically the last on the list to receive my gratitude. Why Christ would continuously pursue someone such as I, who would just as likely to spit in His face as love Him, is a mystery to me. It has always perplexed me that there is someone who knows all my thoughts and every action that I will take and yet still provides a constant, unwavering love for me. That kind of love doesn’t make sense to me, but it exists. I am reminded of a song that reflects well how I am blessed by God. The song is called, “Reckless Love of God” by Cory Asbury. It’s pretty powerful stuff. Even if you aren’t a “church goer” I would encourage you to check it out. It would at least shed some light on why Christians think the way that they do.
The second thing that I am grateful for is my family. Every once in a while, my family goes away on a little weekend trip without me to go see friends on Heather’s side of the family. When they do, I make all these special plans of what I am going to do. It takes about 6 hours of alone time before I am ready for them to come back. I may need rest often, but I need my family even more. They bring me joy, they give my life purpose, and they help keep me centered. I appreciate each one of my family members for the unique blessings that they bring to my life. I also appreciate their willingness to forgive me for my many faults. I am by no means a perfect husband, son-in-law, or father but I have always felt respected and loved by my family. I cannot tell you how healing that is for me.
Third, I am thankful for being alive. I imagine I owe you a bit of context. You see, growing up, I have often had difficulty swallowing when I eat and I have been prone to getting even the most unlikely sized portions stuck in my throat. I don’t choke in the typical sense; I can still breathe. However, I struggle to get food to come up or down once it is lodged in place. I know, this isn’t the kind of content you thought you were in for, but please continue to bear with me. One time, about a year into being married to my wife, there was an incident where the muscles in my neck contracted and pushed food tearing down a large portion of my esophagus, getting caught further down my chest. Bleeding internally, writhing in pain, and gasping for air, I suffered under the worst conditions I have ever endured. As I began to succumb to the burden of pain and panic, I began to prepare myself mentally for the reality that I was at the end of my life. Not soon after, I blacked out. When later I woke from surgery, I didn’t know how to respond. The doctors explained to me that I had survived against bleak odds, and I was very fortunate to have pulled through the surgery. I know that life can be demanding and stressful. Sometimes I don’t know why I keep going. But, then I remember that I am living on time that was graced to me. Every day, whether I deem it good or bad, is something that I was not guaranteed.
Fourth, I am thankful for wisdom. I have been very fortunate to learn from my mistakes (as well as the mistakes of others) without being hit too hard in the back of the head with the “baseball bat of experience.” I am by no means perfect, but I am thankful that I have been able to keep my head during times that seem to be a stumbling block to my peers. I appreciate all the people that have poured into me and helped me to be the man that I am today. I have a lot of growing to do, but I also recognize that I have come so far with the help of others.
Fifth, I am thankful for living in a country where my needs are taken care of. I realize that there are others on this planet that are just trying to get money to buy food, stay out of the weather, and care for the physical needs of their family. There are others that are experiencing emotional pains that I’m sure would cripple me. There is nothing that I have done that justifies me having a more comfortable life than others have, and I try not to get too caught up in the “first-world problems” that seem to plague us. However, when I don’t take the time to be thankful, I am just as prone to complain about not having the comforts I feel I am due from moment to moment. I am so thankful that I have the means to take care of my family and to be a support to others.
Of course, there are many more things to be thankful for, but these are the things that stick out to me for the week. The reason that I want to have a lifestyle of gratitude is that it is a necessary component of our existence. We cannot thrive without having a spirit of thankfulness. Gratitude is what keeps us from becoming bitter and self-absorbed. It helps us keep our lives in perspective. It helps us keep the impact that others have made on our lives in perspective as well. If we don’t take the time to practice the art of gratitude, then we are going to rob ourselves of joy. The things that we experience, possess, and accomplish are not enough to bring us joy in and of themselves. The joy comes from our appreciation of these things. It requires effort and action on our part to gain benefit from what we have. This action is called gratitude.
If you are wondering why I have been bouncing around between the terms “thankfulness” and “gratitude,” it’s because I have recently read a great article about the topic that I will share with you here. Please go check it out if you would like to go a little deeper. And so, to bring this week’s thoughts to a close, I want to encourage you to put on a spirit of thankfulness, not simply for Thanksgiving day, but throughout your life. In the comments, please share some things that you are thankful for.
Until next time, stay Rock Solid, dads!