What am I truly thankful for?

Today is Thanksgiving, a day of giving thanks. But what am I truly thankful for?

In the grand scheme of things, I must admit that it has been an above average year…in a pretty average life. I suppose I could be thankful that it was not below the mean.

One might argue that any year is just the sum of the choices we have made, simply the logical consequences of cause and effect.  Of course, there is always the impact of random chance on events. Together these account well for the twists and turns of our existence.

I will admit that for much of my life, this seemed like a perfectly adequate explanation of outcomes. In many ways, I wanted it to be thus. It gave me control. It meant success was due to my own brilliance.

Of course, failure might be my fault, but other factors mitigate: Bad luck. And, there was always other people’s stupidity to get in the way. I did the best I could.

This philosophy served me well. It placed me in the center of my universe and, for the most part, allowed me to dictate my own destiny.

However, if such is the case, what is there to be thankful for?

When things go well, should I thank myself for being such a talented chap? After all, I’m just the byproduct of an evolutionary chain for which I take no credit. Perhaps, I could be thankful I didn’t end up a frog.

Should I be thankful for good luck?

Like a coin toss, chance rules the world and what goes around will come around, if not this year then surely the next. If I am thankful for this year, then simultaneously I ought to be damning what will inevitably befall me. After all, randomness always evens out the score-regression to the mean. Not much celebration in that.

Yet, deep inside I really am thankful.

I have been inordinately blessed, in ways and magnitude that I cannot ascribe to my own efforts, nor to which I am willing to give that much credence to simple coincidence.

God has given me a particular set of talents. However, it is not simply my efforts that matter, it is that I have tried to use what God gave me. For that, I have certainly received more benefit than my labors alone would attest.

My faith leads me to believe that in the trying, I have received God’s favor (even though I have so frequently fallen short) and that is truly something for which to be thankful.

I don’t really understand the cause and effect relationship between what I ask God’s help for and what happens, but I believe there is a correlation. My life has taken enough detours to make me understand that I didn’t get the key to the map. Sometimes, I don’t even know what path I am on, yet the way has always revealed itself at some point. For those brief moments of clarity, I am thankful.

Each morning (when I am not wrapped up in my own petty thoughts and take the time to notice) a beautiful world unfolds as the sun rises, pink against the clouds, and the mist hangs over the hills. CS Lewis describes it eloquently, “For a few minutes we have had the illusion of belonging to that world… not the physical objects, but that indescribable something of which they become for a moment the messengers.” I am thankful for the beauty that God sends as his messenger to us.

On a personal level, I have been blessed this year. There have been business successes. I live in a lovely home. My wife is as beautiful as ever (I throw that one in in hopes of a good Christmas present). All the children are healthy and productive members of society. They have found wonderful people with whom to share their lives. I rejoice in their happiness and am thankful for God’s favor on them.

Yet, it is not a perfect world. There is much suffering and hardship beyond my own personal bounds. It is a hostile place and we still have people toiling to protect our freedom while we celebrate. I have stood that watch and know the sacrifices they make each day for us.

Let us be thankful for all the blessings we have received and find comfort even in the trials we face, knowing that each is part of the journey we make as the plan we cannot ever fully understand unfolds.

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