“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night…for you, O Lord, have made me glad by your works; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.” Psalm 92:1-2, 4
Just the word makes my heart feel all warm and fuzzy as visions of turkey, family, and pecan pie dance through my head. This has always been in my top three favorite holidays because it’s all about three of my favorite things: food, family, and gratitude. But what if there is more to Thanksgiving than spending the last Thursday of November stuffing your face, watching the Macy’s parade and hanging out with family?
Last year I had to face this question head on. As many of you know, I spent the last year in Brighton, England. This included holidays. Thanksgiving was the first holiday I had ever spent away from family. I’d like to tell you that I handled it like a champ, but that would be a bold-faced lie. Let me quickly paint a picture for you—I was in a foreign country that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. I had to work on Thanksgiving Day. I was away from my family. My computer crashed. I got sick. Needless to say, I was pretty (read: extremely) emotional as I navigated this first holiday on my own in these less than ideal circumstances.
But I wouldn’t trade Thanksgiving 2013 in Brighton, England for anything. Why?
Because it was the Thanksgiving that the Lord taught me what giving thanks is really all about.
After my computer crashed, I ended up sitting on the Brighton beach, crying my little heart out, taking my hurt and loneliness to the Lord. The Lord spoke clearly to me on that beach, teaching lessons that turned my perspective of thanksgiving and life lived in Him upside down. By no means have I perfected these lessons, but as I read through what the Lord was speaking to my heart last Thanksgiving, I fall to the ground in awe of who He is and the love He has for us all over again. Here’s the excerpt from my journal–
“Today I rejoice. Not because it’s easy. Not because I have everything I want. Not because family is around. Not because traditions are being kept. Not because things are going my way. But because the Lord, the Most High Creator, has made me glad by His works and faithfulness. Thanksgiving has nothing to do with what we have or who we’re with. It has everything to do with the One we have and the One with us. Thank you, Jesus, for this day that is full of mourning and joy. Thank you for teaching me how to rejoice daily in who you are and who I am in you, a rejoicing that is not contingent on family, food, laptops, or a holiday. Thank you for this Thanksgiving Day away from America and the commercialized, hyper-spiritualized phrases and ways of Thanksgiving. Thank you for this lesson in true thanksgiving—to rejoice daily in the broken and ugly because it just so turns out that You’re the Master of turning that which is dreadful and despised into a radiant expression of Your splendor.”
It’s bigger than America.
It’s bigger than us.
It all flows from the One who created and sustains all things. It’s daily delighting in who Jesus is, how He loves us, and how He’s moving in and around us. Let’s all be intentional this Thanksgiving season, and beyond, to platform the one who gives us life, breath, and being. Let’s sit still and reflect on who God is and how great His unwavering faithfulness is towards His people. For it is from our reveling in His grace that genuine thanks, joy, and life-change happen. Now that’s true thanksgiving.