It’s the month of November which means “thanks” is all the fashion until we move on to more pressing matters of black Friday sales and Christmas wish lists. I was thinking what I wanted to say about thanks the other night while doing an arobic activity we do daily around here called, changing trach ties. My daughter has a trach (tube in her throat to help her breath) and it is held in place by a tight velcro strap around her neck. This strap has to be changed daily and the skin washed to prevent skin break down and infections. Simple enough. Except that she’s two, and two year olds all seem have a basic need be terrifyingly unmanageable at the most inopportune moments. It’s all four of her extremities thrashing wildly against my very logical suggestions that she hold still. Never mind I’m trying to hold a tube in her throat that gives her the ability to breathe, what use is breathing if your mom is doing horrible things to you? As much as I could expound on the shocking lack of manners displayed by two year olds, I have to admit I act very much like her. Not about trachs of course, but about the subject of thanks.
Most folks don’t have an issue with the generic idea of having a thankful spirit or being a thankful sort of person. “Giving thanks” is sort of a broad spectrum attitude, and we mostly all agree its a good thing. The specifics might get a little dicey though. For most of us, our attempt at “thanks” tends to be regulated to some instagram-able, facebook-postable moment or thing, if it can’t get cropped and a photo filter than it just isn’t worth the time to mention. Thanks tends to be thought of as optional, good, but not necessary, and certainly not happening on a Monday! But thanks is the tube through which we breathe life…and it absolutely, without a doubt, needs to be in place and in use every single day for our own spiritual health and well being.
Thanks is life changing, life grounding, and life sustaining, but only if it is the Bible kind of thanks…thanks that knows to whom it is directed and for what primarily. The Bible says over and over to give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. I am directed to give thanks to the Lord, not thanks to nature, or to the cosmos, or to karma, or to the positive energy swirling through my home…nope, sorry…just God. My current feelings, or my bank account, or the day I’m having, or the life I should have but don’t, aren’t even mildly considered in this mandate of thanks. No, instead I am told to give thanks to God for the immutable, unchangeable fact of Himself. I’m giving thanks because, even if nothing else has been good, or ever will be good, God is good…and I can count on that goodness all day today and all the days ahead…so therefore I will never, ever, not have a reason to offer thanks. This sounds very unfashionably narrow minded of God…if you look at it from the wishy washy perspective of the modern comfortable christian. But could it be that in these uncompromising specifics of thanks, God actually gives us an indestructible ship in which to safely sail even the most violent of storms life might heave our direction?
Thanks is a ship built with the sturdy beams of Grace. It was made to sail in the great, vast, and wildly unpredictable ocean of In. ”In everything give thanks”. In what exactly?
In today. In this moment. In this season of life. In this situation. In this sorrow. In this setback. In this inconvenience. In this disappointment. In this success. In this circumstance beyond my control. In this monotony. In these interruptions. In this uncertainty. In this comfort. In this body. In this state of health. In this family. In this house. In this position. It is all in this place, the all encompassing world of in that I must learn to launch my thanks.
It is with this two letter word that I struggle. It is easier to give thanks tomorrow, when the pain wears off, when the frustration dies down, when the problem looks a little more manageable, when I understand the situation a little better. Eventually is much easier to swallow than in. Theoretically, I am all in favor of the concept, but have you seen my today?? Because I’m not so sure that verse really applies to this. When life becomes slightly less than favorable, what do I want? Out! I want out! I want myself as far away as possible from whatever it is that is compromising my comfort. What possible good is there for being in?
Consistent thanks to God, for the unchangeable fact of God, offered in my current situation is the key that frees a person from ever being a captive to circumstance, to feelings, to any single thing I don’t like about myself or my life…God is bigger than those circumstances, God is bigger than those feelings. God is the center, God is the focus, God is the reason, God is the hope, God is the answer. Never mind what I feel about today! We aren’t discussing a sort of thanks that depends on today! “Today” doesn’t get me out of bed, but God does. Thanks in everything does not in anyway take the significance from the very real experiences we have, but it does take away the sting that may be in those experiences. The sugar added to your tea does not turn the water’s color back to clear, it turns the taste. Thanks is a gift we give to God, which He richly returns to us. Thanks is our personal invitation for coffee and cake with our Creator. Thanks meets us at the door of God’s throne room, it offers a seat, it fluffs the pillows, and adds a log on the fire. It is here, thanks tells us, it is right here, in this Presence in this place that there is fullness of joy. And that is the value of in.
Psalms 16:11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.