We all know that Thanksgiving is meant to be a time where we pause to reflect on how many blessings we have in our lives. The big things are obvious — house, car, heat, food. Those are easy to name off. But sometimes we miss the heart of what giving thanks actually means. Being grateful doesn’t come from the material things we possess; rather, it’s a heart attitude we have to adopt.
I was reminded of this fact recently, during Black Friday, actually. Now Black Friday shopping isn’t my greatest joy in life. I can think of many better ways to spend my time, like sleeping, instead of battling crowds of women clutching pumpkin spice lattes as they scramble to buy yet another sweater or frying pan. But I actually ended up going this year.
My mom and sister lured me out by promising we wouldn’t leave obscenely early, and there were terrific running shoe sales to be had. Of course, we didn’t end up at the shoe store until the very end, but an incident in another store piqued my interest to rethink how Thanksgiving and Christmas should influence us to be grateful.
I was banished to standing in the checkout line for my sister when a 6- or 7-year-old boy began whining behind me. His complaint? The Nerf gun set wasn’t the right size. According to the boy it should’ve had 1,000 extra bullets and 20 more shooting abilities. His mom wasn’t too savvy and asked him which one he did want. Naturally the kid lugged the biggest set he could find into the cart, looking smugly victorious that he had gotten his way, but obviously not grateful at all.
Soon after, two younger moms in front of me started talking about their families, and the first lady asked her friend how she was doing after the birth of her son, who was born prematurely and had suffered massive brain damage.
“We’re so thankful for him,” she said, patting the baby’s back. “I wouldn’t have chosen this for myself, but now I wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re choosing to be grateful for what God has chosen for us.” Her words were a stark contrast of true gratitude in comparison to the whiny boy with his amped-up gun.
These two conversations made me think of a chapel message last year, where the speaker said ingratitude is a wicked sin. We often fail to view whining and moaning about minor discomforts as a sin problem. But we should. We have so much to be thankful, grateful for. Not just the things we can see, hear, touch and feel. But gratitude for what Christ has done for us.
Many of us in the student body are friends with students who have recently lost a parent, an incredibly tough trial that’s hard to even imagine. Yet these students are displaying real gratitude, thanking God for His will and work in their lives despite loss. With testimonies like the mom in the store or fellow students, it shows how ungrateful we can often be.
Maybe it’s time to truly think about what gratitude looks like on a daily basis, not just a seasonal happenstance. Let’s live intentionally grateful lives the next 13 days, over Christmas break and all of 2014.
Our lives may not be perfect according to our standards, but because of who God is, we still have so much to be grateful for.