A Reflection on Gratitude

– by Peggy Grant

Over the past 45 years I have gained and lost the same 10 pounds every year or two. I admit it: I love to eat and drink. I especially love preparing a Thanksgiving turkey with all the trimmings. But love of food has gotten me into a lot more trouble than just having to buy a larger size of pants, because for me it’s a signal of more important issues, like low self worth. It has caused me to hide from myself, and to hide from God – just like the story of Adam, who ate what he knew was bad for him and then tried to cover it up. Maybe I’m the real turkey!

Jesus knows all about my eating habits, and about people’s addictions to all sorts of things – some more harmful than others, but all serving to separate us from the abundant life God intends us to enjoy.

Like the prodigal son who spent all his inheritance eating and drinking, only to end up having to feed pigs so he could eat their slop in order to survive

or the rich man who hoarded all his crops and spent all his money building barns to store them in, only to die without ever having shared them with those in need

or all the people who made excuses not to attend the greatest banquet that would ever be held – the one that would go on forever and ever – the one that God had prepared with an open invitation.

Yes, Jesus knows all about food, and its power to both nourish and destroy. “Give us this day our daily bread … and lead us not into temptation…” – this is a direct recognition of our human condition, of our dependence, of our weaknesses.

So what are we really hungering and thirsting for? Whether we admit it or not, we are, at the root of it all, starving and thirsting for a direct relationship with the living God. The psalmist wrote, “My soul yearns for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” We long to experience the power of the living Christ, who knows what we need and offers it to us continually, if we will accept it.

On Thanksgiving Day, then, let us look first to God for the spiritual nourishment that God offers us. It’s not just “Hey God, thanks for seeing to it that I won’t burn in hell when I die.” It’s an acknowledgment of a specific answer to prayer or a realization that God had been preparing you for something you did not yet know about. It’s an unexpected blessing from an unexpected source or a time when you suddenly understood a Bible passage in a new way, and felt God’s spirit revealing it to you. It’s a time when you knew you had done something wrong, or had harbored unkind thoughts or feelings, and realized that God loved you anyway, and that God would give you the power to apologize, or the perspective to see a situation from the other person’s point of view. It’s a time when you were experiencing great fear, doubt, or turmoil – and you felt God’s presence in an almost physical way.

Gratitude opens the door to the spiritual life because we realize that God alone is able to give us these gifts – the gifts that water our souls and fill our lives with peace, joy, love and all the trimmings. The gifts that restore us to be called children of God.

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