During this week of Thanksgiving, I'll be writing a series called ThanksLiving. Because being thankful is but the teeniest, tiniest first step to living thankful. A crucial step, but truly, just the fringes.
When we practice gratitude, we are touched. Our hearts feel full, and we are able to see with fresh, clear eyes that our blessings abound. We feel inclined to express thanks, to connect with loved ones, to appreciate nature, perhaps to pray.
But I submit that our being "touched" is not the highest purpose of gratitude. The higher purpose is to be moved.
There is a progression in play.
First, gratitude gives perspective. "I am among the most lavishly fortunate human beings on the planet."
Then awe, and, as it sinks in, perhaps the impression that we are on the winning side of some great injustice. "Whoa, why me?"
Then contentment. "I commit to resting in my blessings. Clearly, I lack nothing."
The human tendency is to park it here, but the progression continues. The more we allow gratitude, awe, and contentment to marinate in our hearts, the quicker we come to the next inevitable step:
Conviction. "How can I sit, resting in my blessings, lacking nothing, when so many - the majority of humankind, in fact - lack so much?"
And it is impossible for anyone to experience conviction for very long before they are moved to action. "I cannot sit idly by. I will take what I have, whether little or much, and give where the need is great."
The logical extreme then, the inevitable end of gratitude, is a life marked by consistent, intentional, extravagant generosity.
If we allow ourselves to say, "I was so touched by that gift," "That service touched my heart," "That gesture really touched me," and think that in acknowledging the warm fuzzies we have arrived at gratitude, we deceive ourselves. We are stopping halfway through the progression, taking blessings in without putting blessings out. It's like eating without exercising and thinking that we've got "health" under control. We wallow in our warm nest of friends, food, and political and religious freedom and don't see beyond the tips of our own blessed noses.
You know what other creatures are known for reveling and wallowing in that which they love? Pigs.
And I'm afraid to tell you that no matter how thankful you feel, no matter how many thankful Facebook statuses you post, or how long you say grace before you eat your Thanksgiving turkey - if you don't live generously that's likely how people in need will see you: as a very thankful, very blessed pig.
Contentment is good. It is of God. It reflects a healthy understanding of what we need, and what we have, what we've been given. It cures a hundred ills. It is necessary to get to the next step; but it is not the end.
And so - this is my prayer for you (and for me) this Thanksgiving season:
Be thankful. May your eyes be opened to the astonishing beauty all around you. I pray that you feel your whole world pulsing with glory and holiness and divine blessing - that you experience the great love of God for the first time, or for the hundredth time. Be touched. I pray that your relationships are rich and fruitful. I pray that someone hugs you. I pray that, at least once during this season, you are so mind-numbingly overwhelmed with gratitude that all you can say is, "Wow."
And I pray that as that inevitable knot of emotions, that tangled up ball of joy and gratitude and "I-don't-deserve-this" and the sheer exhaustion from being so intensely happy, wells up inside of you, that you don't quench it. I pray that you let the joy and the gratitude keep welling up until it spills right out onto other people. I pray that your grateful day is a big, beautiful gateway to a grateful life - a life marked by contentment, joy, and consistent, intentional generosity. I pray that giving consumes you, that you can't not give, that you are compelled.
"For the love of God compels us..." [2 Corinthians 5:14]
Be touched, but be moved.
The ThanksLiving series will continue next week with 2 sweet stories about my 2 sweet friends who were (and continue to be) moved - how they are living thankfully, joyfully, and generously. Make sure to stop by and read them. I promise you'll be touched, but they are so practical - so very, very do-able - that you might also be moved.