I am not a fan of cliches, or bumper-sticker slogans. But when I pay closer attention to them, I can see that they sometimes arise from, or point to, something larger. And so it is this year as I see and hear the cliche, “Thanksgiving is thanks living.”
I pause over this phrase and instead of being left with, “Oh, no! Not again!” I walk through the words like a doorway and find some important things to recover and to use in my spiritual formation.
First, I remember that gratitude is the primary response to grace. Thanksgiving is living with the spirit if appreciation alive in my soul. Gratitude is a sign that I no longer consider myself to be the center of the universe, but rather understand that I am the blessed recipient of God’s grace and the generosity of others. Thanksgiving is thanks living in response to grace.
Second, I remember that thanksgiving can exist in the dark places, tight spots, and tough situations. Why? Because God is with us! And because (as the saints put it), God uses everything. I learn and grow through consolation and desolation, through good times and bad. Thanksgiving is thanks living open to the whole of life.
And third, I remember that what I have received can be shared with others. Others can drink from the wells God has enabled me to dig on my journey (cf. Psalm 84:6). I am not on the earth for myself alone. Thanksgiving means thanks living for the sake of others.
Next week, we will celebrate Thanksgiving with friends and family. A cliche cannot do it justice, but it’s not a bad place to start.