November 19, 2012
But If Not
By Suanne Camfield
I had my morning all mapped out: a quick edit on my Strangely Dim Thanksgiving post (set to go live today), a slew of emails returned, a large dent on some research for another project I was working on, an early lunch and I'd be in the office to hit "publish" on this post by noon.
Except when I flipped open my laptop to get my super-productive morning kicked off, I realized I hadn't saved the most recent version of my gratitude-induced post. In fact, I hadn't saved anything even close.
After two hours of trying to recover the file (a whimsical yet thoughtful IVP twist on my favorite holiday classic, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving), I emailed my buddy and co-contributor Dave to tell him I'd be a little late with our pre-Thanksgiving entry. His reply came swiftly, "Ach. That sucks. Happened to me this morning as well. Gonna be hard to be thankful this Thanksgiving."
Funny, right? The irony of his humorous little quip is how precisely it captured what I had already planned on quipping about myself--a cultural leaning (or perhaps just a human one) to extend gratitude only as high (or as low) as our current circumstance. Or if we're really getting down to it, our cultural leaning to equate the goodness of God with our pile of stuff.
Insert Linus' prayer from A Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving here.
Don't get me wrong. In a few days, I will be overflowing with gratitude for both my circumstances and my stuff. I will sit on my in-laws' couch, enjoying a rare third cup of coffee, inhaling the childlike enthusiasm of my kids all sprawled on the floor as they watch the Macy's Day parade. I will hold hands with people I love around a table buckling with food and, with warmth in my bones, I will lift up a prayer of thanks for every last bite.
At the same time, I will remind myself of the slippery slope of thanksgiving--proclaiming God's goodness based on our own abundance rather than his. After all, no home or person or sweet potato casserole is guaranteed an invitation year after year. But the true goodness of God, those attributes that reside in his character--generosity, trustworthiness, holiness, love, justice, mercy and self-sacrifice--these are a safe bet every time. (Thanks to James Bryan Smith for so eloquently pointing this out in The Good and Beautiful God.)
Several years ago my husband brought home a worship CD produced by Student Impact at Willow Creek Community Church. The chorus of one song in particular still runs through my head, both on everyday mornings like today when life doesn't go as planned and in my more reflective moments pondering life's greatest gifts.
The song goes like this:
This Thanksgiving, I hope your table is surrounded with friends and family and overflowing with food. I hope your job is plentiful, your children are thriving and your adventures are successful. I hope your health is strong, your mind is sharp and your soul is full with love, laughter and life. I hope your turkey is juicy.
But if not . . .