“It’s pure torture when you’re a growing teenager and an array of the greatest food ever created is laid out in front of you in the awe and splendor of your grandmother’s finest dishes, napkins bearing the images of autumn leaves folded neatly with gleaming silverware whispering sweetly to you, “Pick me up and dig in. What are you waiting for? It’s going to get cold…eat, eat.” Then only to be interrupted by another voice, carried over the steaming mashed potatoes, the turkey and the stuffing asking the question that is the gatekeeper between you and an epic feast of magnificently gluttonous proportions…
“What are you thankful for?”
Sigh. What WAS I thankful for? Same thing I am grateful for today, I imagine. Each year the question was raised at our family Thanksgiving dinner. And I answered my monosyllabic gratitude with only enough enthusiasm to get me closer to those homemade rolls glistening with melted butter.
I was asked this question again among Forever Family talking and laughing through our annual Fried Turkey “Fryday” Feast that preceded this past week’s Celebrate Recovery meeting. Health, God, food, friends, family, a roof over my head, clothes on my back, safety, freedom, undeserved extravagant grace… I would have kept going, but the next batch of deep fried turkey that floated out of the church kitchen in the arms of one of our faithful volunteers had distracted the questioner.
What am I thankful for? What am I truly thankful for?
I thought more about this question the next morning as I waited in the drive-through lane to buy an extra hot grande white mocha. Am I thankful? Am I? I am aware of the blessings I have been given and I wouldn’t want to go without them. I turn on the faucet in my bathroom sink and out comes clean, disease-free fresh water. I casually flip a switch above the old leather chair in my living room and light floods the house. I am cognizant of how “good” I have it, and have a theoretical (certainly not an experiential) knowledge of how bad it would be without these modern comforts. But does that make me grateful?
In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 Paul writes, “give thanks in all circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Maybe being grateful has nothing to do with what we have. Maybe it has more to do with how we respond in the absence or delay of blessings. Victor Frankl, an Auschwitz death camp survivor knew an existence where everything he had was taken from him. About this he wrote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Perhaps it’s time to ask ourselves a different question before we pass the gravy around the table. Not what we are thankful for, but will we choose a life of gratitude in any and all circumstances? Are we able to say with the hymn writer, “whatever my lot… it is well, it is well with my soul?”