I have a confession to make.
I have a tendency to be a people-pleaser. I often do things because I think it’s what is expected of me, not necessarily because I feel strongly about it.
In the blogging community, we are inundated with expectations.
-Expected to write meaningful essays that meet a specific need within our audience.
-Expected to meet deadlines.
-Expected to build relationships.
-Expected to be consistent.
-Expected to make lasting impressions.
So on and so forth.
With the holidays quickly approaching, I began to feel the weight of expectation once again.
Beginning somewhere in mid-October, my newsfeed became overpopulated with articles written on the topic of Thanksgiving. So I assumed I should probably do the same.
And I tried.
I thought long and hard. I tapped in to my memory bank. I made a plan.
I added specific themes to my idea book. I read similar articles on the topic for inspiration. I even researched the word, thanksgiving in order to gain a deeper understanding of its meaning.
I studied the scriptures, and meditated on verses about giving thanks, especially in the Psalms.
And I prayed. A lot. Everyday.
But I had nothing. NOTHING.
Each time I tried to put my pen to paper, (or in this case, my fingers to keyboard), I drew a blank.
How is it I can’t seem to write about a holiday designated to giving thanks? I thought to myself.
It’s not as if I’m not thankful. On the contrary, I have MUCH to be thankful for! I know this. So, what is my problem?
“Why is this so hard?” I asked aloud.
That’s when I heard it. His still, small, familiar voice.
“Because you’re trying too hard”, He said. “You’re trying to write about an expression that can only be released from the overflow of your heart, not out of compulsion. It cannot be forced.“
It was as if a lightbulb went off.
He was right, of course. And I immediately felt the burdensome weight of expectation lift from off my shoulders.
From that moment on, I determined that I would release my self-inflicted expectation to write something meaningful about thanksgiving, and would instead give myself to simply expressing my thanks to the One from whom all blessings flow.
And I did.
And in the process I became increasingly aware of what it means to be truly thankful from a posture of gratitude versus expectation.
Almost as if to drive the point home, the Lord reminded me of an interaction I had with one of my children not very long ago.
Have you ever had to coax thanks-giving out of a child? As parents we do this often, don’t we?
Little Johnny receives a gift, but forgets to say thank you. Ashamed of our child’s behavior, we quickly chime in.
“What do you say, Johnny?”
A sideways glance at his mother indicates that he is fully aware of his mishap. With a roll of his eyes, he grudgingly says “thaaaaank you,” before tearing off out the back door to play with his friends.
He doesn’t say thank you because he feels thankful. He says it because he is forced to.
And just like that, the “thanks” suddenly loses its meaning.
I suspect it’s no different with us.
Thanks-giving loses it’s validity when it’s given from a place of expectation. Jesus doesn’t want us to feel obligated to give thanks. He wants it to come naturally, from a place of true gratitude.
Out of the overflow of our hearts.
Luke 6:45 says, for the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
So, let me ask you this- what is your heart full of?
On most days if I’m being honest, thanksgiving would not be on the list of things that have a tendency to take up space inside my heart.
Anxiety, stress, worry, doubt, overwhelm- yes.
But thanks? Not so much.
Truth be told, we’re not always thankful for what we’re given, are we? Life is not all roses all the time. Life is sometimes hard. It’s full of broken relationships, ailing health, financial struggles, wayward children, loss of loved ones, and an abundance of questions.
If this is the case, then how does one cultivate a heart of thanksgiving? Is it even possible?
I’ve read countless articles listing practical ways of cultivating a thankful heart this season. All of them good! Truly. However, most of the ideas mentioned were geared toward helping us focus on all we have been given.
But for me, personally, I found that merely focusing on what I have to be thankful for, is not enough.
My home, my family, my health, my job, my friendships, my church- all things to be thankful for.
And I am.
But I’m convinced that being thankful is less about the gift, and more about the Giver.
What happens if/when all the things we are thankful for fade away? Do we cease to be thankful?
Psalm 73:26 says, My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
I don’t know about you, but I want my thanks to come from a place of true overflow. The only way I can think to do that, is by focusing on the GIVER of all good things.
We turn our eyes to Jesus…
How does that song of old go?
Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full on His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
in the light of His glory and grace.
We turn our eyes to the Giver.
One last thought before we go- something I recently learned- offering thanks is simply a form of worship. And do you know what worship is?
The most prominent use of the word worship in the bible is proskuneo, which is greek for, to kiss.
When we give thanks, we worship. When we worship, we kiss.
Kissing requires a posture of change. Coming close. Pressing in.
It is an intermingling of our hearts with His. An act of intimacy like no other.
And is the truest form of thanks we can possibly give.
This holiday season, as we give thanks to the Father of all good things, let us worship Him out of the overflow of love in our hearts, not only for what He gives, but more importantly for WHO HE IS.
Let us offer Him the highest form of thanks possible- let us thank Him with a kiss.
Ironically, my failed attempt to write a meaningful essay on the topic of thanksgiving, led me to a deep personal experience, that turned into a meaningful thanksgiving essay after all.
Our God does work in mysterious ways….;)
Happy Thanksgiving y’all!