Thanksgiving (the act, not the holiday) should not be hard.
The list need not be long to be wondrous.
Like many of us in an abundant time and place, I suppose my list of blessings is so long that I take much of it for granted.
And I’m quick to think of an infinite list of “don’t haves” that provoke anxiety.
I wolf down too much; I bring up too much. I choke on overabundance and even more on the expectation of this, that and the other thing.
The New Testament gives a short list when it comes to expectations and entitlements:
Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. (I Timothy 6:6-8 NRSV)
Man, I’m not very good at that. I could stand to learn from one of the great spiritual guides,
If you do not lose the habit of speaking and complaining about everything – unless you do so to God – you will never finish your lamenting…
I repeat that the whole matter, or a great part of it, lies in losing concern about ourselves and our own satisfaction. (Teresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection 11.2; 12.2)
Pope Francis recently pointed out that many of us struggle with attachment to all the good stuff without lifting our eyes to delight in the One who gives everything for our enjoyment,
“They are attached to this idolatry: they are astonished by the power and energy (of these things). They haven’t thought about how much greater is their sovereign because He created them, He who is the origin and the author of this beauty. It’s an idolatry to gaze at all these beautiful things without believing that they will fade away. And the fading too has its beauty… And this idolatry of being attached to the beauty of the here and now, without (a sense of) the transcendence, we all run the risk of having that. It’s the idolatry of immanence. We believe that these things are almost gods and they will last forever. We forget about that fading away.”
There is a serious choking hazard if we try to gorge on gratitude as a once-a-year ritual feast. Thanksgiving must be a daily diet – a rich one enjoyed in the unhurried luxury of prayer – so that we can delight in the One who loves us rather than life’s temporary tokens of that love: