Ideas / Theology / November 23, 2011

Thankfulness To . . .

Tis the season for thankfulness (a season of 2-5 days that begins with whichever day we get off work or school and ends with the me-first grabbiness of Black Friday). We take these 48-120 hours to reflect on all of those people, things, and opportunities for which we feel grateful. And this is a good thing. It leads to a partial week of general good will, peace, and relative contentment.

But does thankfulness mean anything if it for something but not tosomeone. Is it meaningful to be thankful for one’s family or a table full of food if there is no being that is receiving the thanks?

Thankfulness felt without thankfulness given seems like little more than a welling up of positive feelings. While positive feelings are good (they’re positive after all), they don’t offer much in the way of, well, anything. In order for thankfulness to have real significance mustn’t it be both for something and to someone?

I think it’s easy to fall into the somewhat thoughtless trap of having thankful inclinations without offering thanks. In fact, that’s the very nature of the holiday – a celebration of thankfulness.  But what is that really celebrating?

But if thankfulness is attached to a giver/provider it becomes a relational link and those positive feelings become affectionate feelings that build up rather than aimlessly float away. If I sit down to thanksgiving dinner or look up at the beautiful blue sky or lovingly watch my wife play with my kids and feel thankful that creates a good mood in me. But if I do all those things and express my thankfulness to the cook, to God, and to my family then honor and love are shown and relationship is built up. And that relationship propagates further thankfulness whereas those happy feelings are likely to drift away in a tryptophan induced nap or ill mood that the Packers are beating the Lions.

So, as we careen trough these few days of thankfulness, let’s attempt to consider the giver of all the good things for which we are thankful whether it’s the woman who gave birth to us, the baker of the apple pie, the person who turned on football, and ultimately the creator provider God who made all these things come to pass. Rather than celebrating thankfulness, let’s express thankfulness for something to the being that offered it.

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