Getting ready for thanks.
I talked to a young woman at McDonald’s yesterday. She was at the counter and before I ordered my Diet Coke, I asked her if she was ready for Thanksgiving? It was just 2 days away, I figured it was a good way to engage. She shyly laughed a bit. And then she said, “I’m morally ready, but I still have a lot of details to finish.” She and I both laughed and I replied, “morally ready, I like that.” I guess it’s best to be “morally ready.”
What she was saying was, her spirit was ready to give thanks, even if the dinner details weren’t all worked out. Well, I think it’s harder to be morally ready to give thanks than it is to finish the details of our gatherings. How do we get morally ready? How do we really become thankful people when life is hard?
When life doesn’t cooperate.
There are people in this past month who have found out they have a terminal disease and they’re not ready to go. Others are entering into the holidays without sufficient money to keep the heat on. Some don’t know who to say “thanks” to because any sense of God has dissipated. There are people who are tired of working day and night just to keep food on the table. Then, some have found out they’re spouses are leaving, or have left for good. And finally, many find that the holidays are just another opportunity to miss a loved one who has died.
Life is filled with these kinds of disappointments. We can experience the joys of Spring, but it seems more often than not, we are experiencing one broken dream after another. This all sounds a bit depressing. What are we to do? How do we move past this to a better place of finding joy in life again? Let me give you 5 ways to get ready for giving thanks.
Look to the End.
Some people tell us, we just have to live in the present. That’s true, but… it does matter where we’re going. What is the end? What’s the goal? What’s the hope we have? It’s not what you might think. Some of us Christians dream of heaven, where we get to escape this world. I do think we get some relief in our final dwelling place. But it’s not an escape. It’s the ultimate engagement. It’s a complete, unhindered fellowship with the God who created and redeemed us. I believe the future will be filled with learning and growing, engaging and participating in the fullness of God’s life. And now, he is preparing us. He is training us for that life. And he’s using us to help others get ready.
Embrace Your Story.
Your story is just that, a story. Stories have plot lines. They have movement. In stories, there are seasons and tensions. Have you ever noticed that in a good detective story, the writer makes you think that someone did it. And just when they were about to be put away, a crisis happens. Then it’s revealed that we were wrong all along. Why do writers write like that? Because it’s the journey between tension, conflict, and finally resolution, that makes the story worth reading. We relate to that, because that’s life. What do we call a story where everything always ends up good? We call it a Fairy Tale. Why? Because it sounds good, but that’s not how life works. Sometimes it stays hard for a very long time. And the apparent end isn’t always so glorious. But it is always good.
God is writing a story in our lives. It comes with conflict, questions, tensions, and moments of pause. Then, finally a sense of resolution. That is until the next conflict arises. Our stories are hard. But they will be great stories to tell in eternity. This life is your story. Written by God. You’re the main character. Let’s embrace that and thank God for writing a story worth the reading.
Look for truth.
Truth trains our mind in the things that are real. Truth engages us and guides us in seeing and understanding the meaning of our journeys. That truth is found most clearly in Jesus himself. He is the truth. He came in grace and truth (John 1:18). His incarnation, his life, his death, his resurrection, and his ascension give us the framework through which we understand God and our world. A world full of people like us, needed to be rescued. God came himself by entering, living and dying. And he broke the power of sin and death through his resurrection. He became one with humanity, so we could be one with him (John 17:21).
Where do you see the truth of Jesus at work? Do you see lives being redeemed? Do you see the hints of life where at first, all we saw was death? How has Christ changed the pain in your own life into something that brought hope, or transformation? That’s the truth of Jesus at work.
Find the good.
Goodness engages our body in the work of God’s love. Goodness is what we do that adds life to others. In this harsh and lonely world, there are evidences of goodness all around us. I watch the news and there is often the hero neighbor who goes into the burning house to bring out the child. There are those who sacrifice life and limb to fight the oppression of others. There are those who have said a kind word or given a smile when you were feeling alone.
And there are times when you have shown goodness. You waved to a neighbor. You picked up a trash can that tipped in the wind. Or, you supported someone who was going through a hard loss. This is all good. Goodness is from God. Every good and perfect gift is given by the Father of lights (James 1:17).
Beauty unites our hearts with the heart of God. It touches us in a place where truth and goodness don’t. Beauty gives life a richness that makes us love this life with a passion for all its possibilities. We can find beauty in a piece of music, or in a painting. Beauty shows up in poems, or in the colors of a sunset. Beauty is something we often have to look for. It doesn’t yell, or demand to be noticed.
Beauty rarely comes in perfect moments. Instead, it comes as a fruit of brokenness, humility, and pain. Like the glory of Christ after the resurrection, it often has to travel through crucifixion first. But when beauty shows itself, it awakens us to our Creator and reveals his heart to us. As King David said, it’s what we long to see (Psalm 27:4).
If you’d like to take a journey through beauty, you can sign up for a devotional called #30daysofbeauty that I wrote this year.
Don’t hide but see it another way
I’m not encouraging you to hide from the pain during this season of Thanksgiving. But I am asking God to help you understand your pain within the bigger picture. We need to see beyond ourselves. You see, our stories are not just our stories. They are chapters, or scenes within a larger story of a God who loved, created, redeemed and restores. And he does it all for the sake of us knowing him forever. And he shows up every day to make that happen.
This perspective can make us “morally ready” for the giving of thanks. In fact, after writing this, I think I’m morally ready again! I’m thankful for the hope of sitting with Father, Son and Spirit at the table in his kingdom. I’m thankful for my story, with all its twists and turns. I look forward to seeing how it’s all going to turn out. I am thankful for the truth of God’s love in Jesus Christ. That he would join our journey, so we could join his thrills my heart. I am thankful for the good I see lived out every day by those who let the light of God shine in this dark world. I am thankful for the beauty that shows up through broken vessels. They reveal the heart of a Creator who made babies and the constellations in the sky.
I’d love to hear if you’re morally ready. If you’d like prayer, or personal encouragement, feel free to engage me through the buttons below.