By Brett Younger
A newspaper columnist asked a variety of people, "What do you want more than anything in the world?" Most of the answers were what you would expect: "money," "a great job," "true love," "more tithers." But one person answered, "I would like to have a greater appreciation of what I already have."
I am so cynical. I am not sure they meant it. It sounds too good to be true. How many people do you think they asked before someone said, "I don't want anything. I just want to be more grateful for what I already have"?
We are not excessively thankful. For the most part, we act about as grateful as we are expected to act. We secretly think that God is lucky to have us. We are faithful people. We go to worship most Sundays. We are the ones who keep the church going. We know it's good to give thanks, but it's also understandable when we think of Thanksgiving as a Thursday rather than a way of life. God certainly doesn't stand around waiting for us to say thank you or get angry when we don't.
But genuine thanksgiving changes the one who loves the giver. Excessive gratitude transforms the way we see, hear, and feel. Extravagant gratefulness finds treasure in the plowed field of the routine, sees daily bread as God's provision, and holds a cup to the fountain of life. Real thanksgiving changes everything.
Thomas Merton writes, "To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything God has given us-and God has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of God's love, every moment of existence is a gift of grace, for it brings with it immense graces from God. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise the goodness of God."
Grady Nutt said, "Gratitude is an umbrella in the rain and a convertible in the sun."
Real thanksgiving will begin for us when we move beyond focusing on what we have to recognize the source of all blessings. It could be that on Judgment Day God will ask, "Did you enjoy the gifts I sent?" The most surprising gifts-unexpected strength in the midst of a hardship, a new friendship at a lonely time, a kind word in the midst of sorrow, a joy that's deeper than any pain-are God's gifts.
We know more about being good people than we know about thanksgiving, but we can be more open to the possibility of accepting our lives as a gift and then giving them back to God.