A few years ago I was helping a friend unload his equipment in preparation for a show he was playing guitar for that night. As I unpacked cables, amplifiers, pedal boards, and monitors I suddenly heard exclamations of frustration across the stage. I looked over and saw an open guitar case. I walked around to see what was so frustrating and, much to my confusion, I saw nothing. Yet, the nothing that I saw was the very source of anger and frustration. In the busyness of packing and loading equipment, my friend forgot to put his guitar in the case. So there we were, with every piece of equipment necessary, except for the most important one, the instrument itself.
Maybe for you it isn’t an empty guitar case, but we all can relate with the interesting correlation between busyness and forgetfulness. It’s in the rush of getting out the door that you forget your keys and lock yourself out of the house. Or when you arrive to your destination with your kids, only to realize you forgot to bring that one beloved stuffed animal that is absolutely essential to their ability to fall asleep. We are a busy and forgetful people.
Yet, the irony of Thanksgiving is that many of us rush from one family gathering to another, from one grocery store to another, only to get to the end of Thanksgiving break still looking for the break. Could it be that in the frantic pace of our Thanksgiving events that many of us don’t slow down enough to really be thankful? Our ability to be thankful is directly correlated with our ability to remember, and as we all know, the faster we run, the more difficult it is to remember.
So what is the solution? How, this Thanksgiving season, can we take a step forward in leading ourselves and our families in thankfulness? Here are a few ideas:
Slow down - As was noted earlier, the break-neck pace of our lives manifests itself in nearly everything we do. Plan to slow down. If it’s true that we care about what we schedule, then let your schedule say that you care about slowing down and being thankful. Give your microwave a break and use your oven. Take the extra time to invite your kids into the cooking process and thank God with them for the gracious gift of easily accessible food and water. Show up 15 minutes early to pick your kids up from school and use that time to pray and thank God for your kids and their teachers. Men, wake up 15 minutes early each day and before getting into the rush of your day write a letter to your wife and kids telling them about what God has shown you and how you’re thankful for each one of them. Students, slow down and handwrite a letter to a friend, family member, roommate, or coworker specifically telling them how you are thankful for them.
Create visible reminders - Right after the Israelites left Egypt, God commanded them to consecrate every firstborn, eat no unleavened bread for seven days, and dedicate every firstborn male to the Lord when they reached the promised land. Why were they to do this?
Exodus 13:14- “In the future, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘By the strength of His hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.”
God gave them visible reminders to cause them to remember everything He had done in rescuing them from Egypt. God knew that his own people would forget the greatest thing He had done at that point for his people, so he gave them ways to remember.
If they needed visible reminders, so do we. Start a blessings jar where you write on small rocks what you’re thankful for and put them in a jar on your counter so everyday you see reminders of God’s faithfulness. When your kids whine and complain, take that as a cue for you to tell them what you are thankful for and invite them to be thankful with you. When you forget something, or something of yours breaks, let that trigger you to be thankful that you even have the ability to own things that will break or be forgotten. Redeem mealtimes to go around the table and tell one thing that you’re thankful for about who God is, and what he had done.
Cut the comparisons - Discontentment is fueled by comparison. As we look at the people around us with things we wish we had and lives we wish we could live, we grow more and more discontent with what we have and who we are. It doesn’t take long for seemingly everything in our life to need an “upgrade”.
Stop the constant pursuit of the latest and the greatest. No matter what you do, someone somewhere will have a better car and a bigger house. Realize that as a follower of Jesus, your identity is not in how you look or what you have, but is in Christ himself.
Colossians 3:2-4- “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
Set your mind, where? On things above. Thankfulness begins in the mind. A quick way to know where you set your mind is to look at where you set your eyes, your money, and your time. Cultivate a life of thankfulness by cultivating a mind of thankfulness. Rather than seeing what you don’t have, rejoice for the things you do have. Rather than saving for the next possession, begin saving money for the purpose of meeting others’ needs. Assess where you set your mind, and as you set your mind on the kingdom of God you will see your concerns follow suit and thankfulness will begin to overflow in your thoughts and actions.
Any of these suggestions would be great steps forward this Thanksgiving season, but it would be a tragedy if we relegated thankfulness to a season. Would it be true of us, as Christ followers, that our thanksgiving be continual and not seasonal, generous and not stingy. Let us not live as entitled to the things that we have, but recognize everything as a gift given from the hands of a gracious God. And as receivers of grace, let us be thankfully generous as we remember the many ways in which we have been so graciously blessed.