11.23.2016

Thanks for Everything

'Tis the season to cultivate a thankful spirit.  Indeed, thanksgiving is an important, active, and intentional thing to practice, lest we are overcome by the prevailing moods of unsatisfying materialism, haughty cynicism, or callous disrespect.  This age would do well to say no to a spirit of ungratefulness and yes to humbly receiving just how good we have it.

And yet I understand why expressing a posture of thanksgiving is fraught.  All is not right in our society and in our own selves.  It may seem incongruous to be grateful when there is much that is not worth giving thanks about.  We are rightly hesitant to preen with gratitude when others struggle and suffer.

One could argue that thankfulness is only good to practice if it also leads one to realize how good one has it, and to take action for those who aren't as well off.  And that is a good thing to think.  But then where does it end?  If I am richer, more privileged, and more resourced than others, then I ought to care about helping others who are less so, and it should be a lifelong attitude and not just a one-time guilt-cleanser.  But can I still be thankful if those injustices and inequities remain?  If no, then when?  If yes, then am I being insulting?

Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers has drawn national attention for his unwillingness to stand for the national anthem.  He believes he cannot celebrate a country that continues to oppress and kill.  I respect his thought process, and am glad his protest has drawn in others and opened up the conversation about race in America.

I am not as aware as he is, but I am well aware of the oppression and violence that is taking place in this nation.  And I grieve those things.  But I am still able to celebrate this country.  I want it to be better, which means it is not quite where I think it should be.  In many areas, not only are we not close, but we are heading in the wrong direction.  But, warts and all, I still celebrate this country.

Similarly, I am aware of many things that should not and do not engender gratitude.  But I can still be grateful, and not selectively so but rather thankful for the whole package.

In spiritual terms, the great battle for our souls has been won and is being won.  God has made a way, and is making a way.  We have a long way to go, and in many respects we are heading in the wrong direction.  But our ultimate and eternal destination has been secured.  And so, in spite of and through many tribulations, I can be thankful for it all.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
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