In his message this past Sunday, our pastor mentioned the idea of “taking for granted what is granted” as he talked about thanksgiving. I’ve been turning that over in my mind all week. It seems we have this propensity to forget that every good, true, and beautiful person, place or thing we enjoy comes as a “grant” and not something we earn or are simply entitled to. It is easy to think we have done something to deserve the good things we have in life. Yet we can think of instances of others who have done the same things and don’t have what we enjoy, or those who have done squat and enjoy far more.
Actually, the idea of “thanksgiving” seems to recognize that there is both something for which we give thanks, and someone to be thanked. We are both thankful for and thankful to. We are thankful for what we’ve been granted, and also thankful to the grantor.
Certainly some of what we’ve been granted comes from significant others in our lives. I am truly thankful for the love and companionship, the home and the meals, the good sense and artistic view of life, that are gifts from my wife. I’m thankful for the nurture and care and guidance and love of two parents who profoundly shaped my life. I’m thankful to my son for a friendship where we spur each other on in writing, and where he’s not afraid to push back when he thinks I’m “out of touch” or disagrees with my take on life. I’m thankful for and to friends and colleagues who have so enriched my life.
There is so much else though that is good, true, and beautiful for which there is no person to thank. The glories of this evening’s sunset. The smell of autumn leaves. The crisp tang of the morning air. The inspirations of a glorious landscape or the song of a bird, to art and music and dance. The simple pleasures of being alive–the warmth of the morning shower, the savor of coffee brewing and that first sip, the refreshment of a nap, a brisk walk across campus, the hug of someone you love.
There is a sense in which all these things are “granted” as well even though there is no human grantor. Some resolve this by saying that what is important is just the state of thankfulness. And probably that is far better than a grumbling, complaining spirit and our own mental outlook. Others, depending on their outlook thank nature, the universe or the Creator. I find myself in the latter camp, inclined to think that something so personal as a heartfelt “thank you” fits best with an infinite-personal Creator who “grants” these wonders for which I am so thankful and feel myself so blessed. One of my favorite passages of scripture is found in James 1:17:
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
This reminds me of the chorus from Godspell (based on an old German hymn, later translated into English):
“All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above..
So thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord for all his love..”
Today is a day that reminds me that I am loved extravagantly. Lover.
Father. Lord. And all I can do is say “thank you.” And that is enough.