Thanksgiving

Why do I always forget how blessed and lucky I am? Why do I always have a hard time recognizing the many things I should be thankful for? How every little thing in my life—both easy and hard, painful and pleasurable—has been orchestrated by God to form a purpose far grander than my own ambitions?

I think part of it is that I’ve grown up in a world of entitlement. Ours is a world of debilitating entitlement. We are raised to assume that we have the inalienable right to be happy and healthy, that we are entitled to money and security and insurance and freedom to do and say whatever we want. We think it’s our prerogative, our destiny, our right. And so when good things happen to us we’re liable to shrug it off as “our due” instead of being humbled to a place of deep gratitude.

But newsflash: we aren’t entitled to anything.

EVERYTHING is a gift from God. Every good thing is a grace, given not out of obligation but love.

When I realized this, it was so utterly freeing. It allowed me to pull back from my life and see it from beyond my own small sphere. Turns out I’m just a miniscule part of a much bigger picture; turns out there is a purpose to my life, but it has much less to do with my immediate satisfaction than the success of the “bigger picture.”

Occasionally I have moments—little God-given epiphanies—when all of this hits me like some sort of heavenly ton of bricks. Last Saturday was one of those moments. I found myself in a five star hotel, eating amazing (and free) food, interviewing the filmmakers of The Road (a film of extreme deprivation, by the way: It really makes one thankful for what we have). Then I met a fellow journalist who—in a roundabout way—might be responsible for starting the chain of events 6 years ago that eventually led to me being allowed to write a book about hipster Christianity. It was a weird and wonderful experience of grace—a “full circle” moment of connection in which God opened my eyes to just how carefully he crafts every detail and weaves every occurrence in life together for his good.

In that moment, I was overwhelmed with thanksgiving, and it was such a sweet feeling. To be humbled to that point of immense gratitude and smallness is nothing like the blow to pride you might take it to be. On the contrary, it’s the fullest and happiest I’d felt in a long time. To realize that I have no right or entitlement to any of this—five star hotel film journalism or whatever the case may be—and yet have been given it in so deliberate and complicated a manner… it’s just so much to take in.

I think it’s true that, as John Piper often says, “God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in him.” And maybe that is where the fullness and joy of thanksgiving comes from—we are feeling the spilling over of God’s glory. His pleasure in our satisfaction is compounding our joy.

The funny thing about grace is that it just keeps coming, even when we don’t recognize it or pridefully mistake it for something we deserve. Of God there is so much to know and love and fear and wonder about. But on cool November mornings like this, in my warm house with some coffee on and the residual smell of bacon in the air, there’s nothing sweeter but to know that he gives. And he gives and he gives.