C. S. Lewis taught many people many things, but he couldn’t teach his own dog to fetch a bone. Whenever Lewis pointed his finger at a bone he wanted the dog to retrieve, the pup happily wagged his tail, licked the pointing finger, and blithely ignored the bone.
I am reminded of Lewis’s myopic mutt during the Thanksgiving season. It’s a time for pointing out all those things for which we are so grateful. There is much to point out:
families, of course, and friends who stick closer than a sister;
good food, especially my daughter’s outrageous curries;
beautiful autumn days enjoyed in the company of brilliantly blooming alpine larches;
the amazing diversity of cultures and a deep sense of belonging to one another;
the powerful yearning that inspires poetry and song.
A few years ago a colleague gave thanks for fermentation (bless his heart). He also thanked God for everything that we have forgotten (bless his wisdom).
That’s how it is. Once you start thanking, the list is unending—a gift itself worth savoring.
But these good things are, in fact, only pointers. They’re intended to turn our devotion to something deeper, higher, grander, and greater than the gifts themselves.
They point us to God, the giver of all good gifts: the Creator, Provider, and Redeemer who loves us, heals us, bestows joy beyond anything our possessions can, and who calls us to lifelong obedience.
Stirred by the beauty of creation, I thank the Creator of all things. And that contemplation reminds me of my calling to faithfully and carefully tend God’s great garden of gifts. Thanksgiving leads to stewardship.
Satisfied with my well-laden table, I thank the God of abundance and remember that God’s abundance is intended for all. Thanksgiving renews the summons to seek the well-being of those constantly threatened by injustice, poverty, war, and calamity.
Thankful to belong to a community of family and friends that fortify my life, I praise the triune God who invented and embodies community. And I know that all God’s children should be embraced and welcomed—none left out in the cold of rejection. So thanksgiving leads to hospitality and the quest for peace among neighbors and nations.
All those things for which we give proper thanks reveal something of God to us if we have eyes to see; and they reveal something of God’s will for us if we listen.
In fact, that may be their truest purpose. Everything that we love we will eventually lose, for nothing in this world lasts. Food spoils, friends move away, health declines.
Nothing lasts in this world. Nothing, that is, except God and the sure promise that we can never be separated from God’s love, which is ours in Jesus Christ: “In his great mercy God has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Pet. 1:3-4).
Linger over your thanksgiving. Learn how each precious gift points to God and to life in God’s kingdom.
Gratitude is the precise creaturely copunterpart to the grace of God. —Karl Barth