I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart... Psalm 138:1 (ESV)
Thursday is Thanksgiving Day, and this year the usual traditions that my family observes are being slightly interrupted due to one reason or another. This interruption gave me just enough space to begin thinking about Thanksgiving in general. It's called "Thanksgiving," but I can't really name one significant way in which I actually "give thanks." What does it even mean to give thanks?
Albert Einstein is often credited with saying some version of the quote that "if you can't explain [something] simply, you don't understand it well enough." This quote hit home today as I tried to teach my daughters how to be thankful. They were fighting over their chairs and how close they were to one another at the dinner table. So, I took their chairs from them and made them stand while they ate. After a few minutes, I made them get a chair for each other and thank one another. I wish that this parenting trick was more "win" than it was "fail," but the lesson was still too abstract for a 7 and 8 year old to grasp. I started to realize that one can never truly be thankful for what they have been given unless they have some understanding that it could be taken away at any moment?
I have several friends dealing with the loss that at any moment I could be dealing with also. A spouse that unexpectedly passes away. A tragic loss of a child. News of your child's cancer returning. The loss of a job and the primary source of providing for the family. How ca these complex feelings be effectively taught to my kids? Especially when I know I haven't really learned them myself yet? I'm thankful that I haven't learned those feelings first-hand, but how do I go about "giving thanks" for that?
As I started to try to answer the question above, I did what any typical Millennial would do. I Googled "give thanks." Among the many results that came up, I was drawn to Psalm 138, a Davidic Psalm entitled Give Thanks To The Lord. It is a beautiful Psalm that captured me with the very first line, which I quoted earlier. It says to give thanks "with my whole heart?" What does that look like? For King David, the author, it looked like standing against false gods and singing the praises of the Lord (Psalm 138:2). It looked like praising God for who He IS (Psalm 138:3). It looked like making the Lord's position over all the "kings of the earth" (Psalm 138:4-5) and His love for the outcasts and misfits (Psalm 138:6) well known. It looked like trusting in His eternal, life-sustaining love and grace (Psalm 138:7-8).
I'm not sure yet what I want this Thanksgiving to look like exactly, but I do know that I want to make the most of it. I don't want to wonder if my daughters understand. I want to know that they get it. Most of all, I want my giving of thanks to be so wholehearted that it makes the glory of the Lord known to all the kings of the earth as David's did. I want His name and His Word to be "exalted above all things" (Psalm 138:2) especially above the prospect of getting a good deal on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, or Cyber Monday.