Okay, so maybe it’s just me, but I had a bit of a harder time than usual with the “thankful” part of Thanksgiving this year.
Granted, I had all the prerequisites in place: family gathering at grandma’s, more food than we could eat, football and an Eagles victory…but still, something seemed lacking. Maybe it was the stress involved in the rush out the door in the morning; maybe it was the long car ride; maybe it was simply that my focus was wrong.
Today, I realized what it really was.
Every year, I get asked if I’m going Black Friday shopping. And every year, Thanksgiving becomes more and more consumer-focused. It’s really just Black Friday Eve. Two years ago, stores opened at midnight. Then they bumped it up to 9 pm. This year stores opened at 6 pm or earlier, and some were open all day.
It’s not just Black Friday shopping, though. On Thanksgiving Day, I received an alarming number of notifications and texts from friends–and I replied to them! I’m not saying we shouldn’t be announcing our thankfulness to those we love, but isn’t it better to enjoy it with family rather than being distracted by other conversations at the same time? Wouldn’t it be worth it to unplug, just for a little while, and enjoy the moment?
Even as I ramble on, though, I realize that it’s not just Thanksgiving. We–meaning society as a whole, myself most definitely included–have a general attitude of self-serving entitlement. We look out for number one, rather than living for an audience of One. We think about ‘what’s in it for me’ rather than looking to serve. We think we deserve a good life rather than recognizing that everything we have is all because of grace.
It’s a powerful word. A provocative word. A beautiful word. A scandalous word. A marvelous word. A taken-for-granted word.
I deserve nothing.
“God,” wrote Max Lucado in his book Wild Grace (which I highly recommend), “answers the junk of life with one word: grace.
“We talk like we understand the term. The library gives us a grace period to pay a late fine. The no-good politician falls from grace. Musicians speak of a grace note. We describe an actress as gracious, a dancer as graceful. We use the word for hospitals, baby girls, kings, and pre-meal prayers. We talk like we know what grace means.
“Especially at church. Grace graces the songs we sing and the Bible verses we read. Grace shares the church office with its cousins: forgiveness, faith, and fellowship. Preachers explain it. Hymns proclaim it Bible schools teach it.
“Here’s my hunch: we’ve settled for wimpy grace. It politely occupies a phrase in a hymn, fits nicely on a church sign. Never causes trouble or demands a response. When asked, ‘Do you believe in grace?’ who could say no?
“This book asks a deeper question: Have you been changed by grace? Shaped by grace? Strengthened by grace? Emboldened by grace? Softened by grace? Snatched by the nape of your neck and shaken to your senses by grace? God’s grace has a drenching about it. A wildness about it. A whitewater, riptide, turn-you-upside-downness about it. Grace comes after you. It rewires you. From insecure to God-secure. From regret-riddled to better-because-of-it. From afraid to die to ready to fly. Grace is the voice that calls us to change and then gives us the power to pull it off. Once you encounter it, you’ll never be the same.”
Grace–real, wildwater grace–is the kind of grace that demands a response.
My mentor, Emily House, has told me multiple times that “Thankfulness is the opposite of entitlement. It is impossible to complain when you’re being thankful.”
So if you’re struggling with selfishness, remember grace. Remember how far you were, how worthless, how sinful, how shameful, how lost, and remember the God who saved you from yourself, who loved you when you rejected him, ignored him, cursed him, denied him, and who never let you go, never gave up on you, and never will.
“Grace is a God who stoops.” –Max Lucado
Just a little reminder. I know Thanksgiving is over, meaning its time to deck the halls and all that to get ready for Christmas, but everything I’ve said still applies. So happy holidays, and don’t forget what really counts.