Thanksgiving: Deeper than the mealtime grace

Tulip that broke through asphalt, taken in my backyard the spring after we paved over the garden

Every year Thanksgiving comes around and people pay homage to what is probably America’s most universal holiday.   Unlike some exhausting holidays, all that is required from us is time with family and good food.  Of course, by definition, it also requires a little bit of gratitude.    The various churches, synagogues and mosques in my area take turns hosting an ecumenical service–what a wonder Thanksgiving can accomplish, if nothing else other than to bring such diversity of faith together in joint prayer for one day a year!

Sometimes we may be in a situation where we are asked to go around a room–classroom, a church service,  a small group table for instance–and say something we’re thankful for.  Inevitably, we hear “I’m grateful for my health,” “I’m grateful for my family.”   We don’t often hear, “I’m grateful for my financial difficulties,” or “I’m grateful to be out of work,” or “I’m grateful for this crisis in my marriage,” even though we always hear that adversity makes us stronger and has the potential to put us in a better place–a place only God can see for us now.  Hard pressed, I’m sure that each person who may be experiencing financial difficulties, unemployment, or relationship issues might actually be able to find a silver lining–maybe not now, but in hindsight.

So, to celebrate Thanksgiving, perhaps we can forego the platitudes of the obvious–the joys of having good health and a loving family.  Perhaps, like the Pilgrims who weathered murderous winters on a foreign shore in order to get to the first Thanksgiving, we can be grateful for our ability to practice acceptance, faith and hope that whatever we are embroiled in today, we will be thanking God for it next year.

Not unlike the battle-weary Confederate soldier who, as legend has it, wrote the following prayer, which is worthy of any mealtime grace at the Thanksgiving table:

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve,
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked God for health, that I might do greater things,
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

I asked for riches, that I might be happy,
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men,
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life,
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for
– but everything I had hoped for.

Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among men, most richly blessed.

Found on the body of a Southern soldier
1861-1865

 

Edited to add postscript:  This is my 50th post in this blog.  At some point I had it in my mind to write something special for the 50th post,  then  forgot, and didn’t realize until just now, after publishing today, that this post is the 50th–and an appropriate one it is.  Thank you to everyone who has dropped by,  thanks to those who have shared, and thanks to all those from whom I have drawn inspiration!   cmb

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