Wait, was that Thanksgiving? I almost missed it. Canadian Thanksgiving, that is – the one that sneaks up on you at the least expected moment. Our holiday is a boring, understated October version of the huge, commercial U.S. celebration that will steamroll over us later in the year.
Here in the rolling hills of Northumberland however, Thanksgiving happens at a perfect time. It’s the harvest season for apples, root vegetables, pumpkins and corn. There is an explosion of colour as the trees reach peak fluorescence then carpet the ground with a rainbow of leaves. The air is crisp and clean on our skin, promoting old sweaters out of our closets.
Some of our family were able to come home for Thanksgiving and space was made for a meal, dessert, drink, places to laugh, places to rest. It has been a difficult year for many of us but it doesn’t matter so much right now, thankfully.
Was your Thanksgiving a success? I’m not talking about how moist the turkey was (important) or how your stuffing recipe turned out (importanter). I’m wondering if Thanksgiving reminded you to be thankful? Or were we too busy enjoying its benefits to find the time?
There is a story recorded in Luke 17 about ten people with a contagious disease. As Jesus entered their village they made a commotion, shouting at him, begging him to ‘have mercy’ on them. Jesus issued a simple instruction and they were miraculously ‘made clean’ even as they were scampering away to complete it.
They quickly discovered they had been healed and found various ways to celebrate their good fortune. Yet exactly 90% of them never thought to express thanks to the source of their healing.
The story revolves around the single one who returned and thanked Jesus. Jesus’ response to his gratitude was simply, “Get up and go; your faith has made you well (saved you).” God’s healing had been easily, freely extended to all of them but only one had paused to interact with his saviour.
There are two types of healing in this story; different words for each. The first instance of ten healings is described as an external cleansing – the original language suggests a physical, genetic repair. Yet only the thankful person is gifted with a second, more holistic healing that the others were never aware of.
This story isn’t just about external healing, which is something Jesus did fairly regularly, but about how ‘thank you’ opened the door to a deeper healing. It seems there is something healthy about intentional thanks, perhaps because it is an acknowledgement of our dependence on others. On the Other.
When you think about it, isn’t that a picture of faith today? How many christians cling to some past moment when God did something for them, then return to their own path, justified by one experience? Ninety percent? On the other hand, how many christians pause regularly in gratitude and discover more of God’s goodness? Ten percent?
It reminds me of the many people who think of God as fire insurance; hell avoidance. That is kind of like marrying somebody because they have a good job – helpful in the moment but ultimately perilous. Punishment and rescue aren’t the point.
The point is not to be saved from something but into something. God forgives easily but that is only the beginning. Jesus valued thankfulness because it moved people past superficial rescue and into the life of God.
“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.
“Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.” – Thomas Merton, Thoughts In Solitude¹
I hope you had (or will have) a good Thanksgiving but honestly, how thankful are you?
Yeah, me neither. We need to be better.
Is your thanks inward-facing or outward-facing? Do you measure your blessings with your priorities or God’s priorities?
Does being thankful make you feel proud of God’s favour or humbled by his undeserved kindness?
Eternal life begins today simply by accepting and acknowledging God’s goodness. When we respond with sincere and regular thanks we can move beyond shallow healing to where deeper healing begins.
So, thanks God.
No, seriously, thank you.
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