This week is a not a bad time to take inventory. I am not thinking in terms of the kind of inventory that a retailer conducts annually. Retailers count the number of items on a shelf. This week would be a good time for us to count our blessings.
There are obvious things for which we should express gratitude. And then there are not so obvious. Yesterday I preached a sermon entitled: “I Don’t Feel Like Being Thankful.” In that presentation, I included this quote from Henri Nouwen:
To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives—the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections—that requires hard spiritual work.
We are only truly grateful people when we can say “thank you” to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for. Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.
There are times I really don’t feel thankful. I have my moments when I prefer whining over gratitude. There are situations that I have a hard time seeing any value in. There are people that I simply don’t perceive as a blessing.
I told my church family yesterday that I was plowing new ground. I used the term “exercise” and “Thanksgiving Day” in the same sentence. I seriously doubt that has been done since the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving. Here is the exercise I shared in my sermon yesterday:
• What has caused you sorrow this year? Can you find something that has occurred during that period of sorrow for which you can be grateful? Are their friends that touched you during such a time?
• Where or how have you failed this year? Is there something good that has come out of those failures for which you can be thankful?
• Who has hurt you this year? Has something good surfaced from that hurt? Are you more humble and gentle with others as a result of the hurt?
I don’t always feel like being thankful, but I know the capacity to be thankful for the difficult things in life are a sign of true maturity. I also find this to be important exercise if I am going to prevent resentment and bitterness from executing a complete takeover of my heart. I hope we can all gather around a table of thanksgiving in more ways than one this week.