Several years ago I wrote this article about explaining Thanksgiving to my young daughter. Even though many years have passed the article is still applicable.
Last night I was putting Ana to bed. We had said our prayers and were laying there quietly talking. She asked if I was going to be a witch for Halloween and wanted to know when we would go trick or treating again. One thing I have learned is never to give complicated answers to three year olds. A general rule of thumb is keep it simple. So I said I would be dressing up as a witch, but that we wouldn’t be going trick or treating until next year and it was time to get ready for Thanksgiving.
“What’s Thanksgiving, Mamma?” (That’s what Ana calls me, Mamma) Ana asks in her little voice.
“Thanksgiving is a day when we eat a big dinner and Thank God for everything we have.”
Sounds simple enough, right. My three year old seemed to understand it okay. However, in trying to teach Ana about Thanksgiving, I have had to really think about it myself. Do we really need to thank God and what do we need to thank him for?
Being human, we tend to believed that everything we have is because of something we have done, something we have control over. I can tell you from personal experience this is not the case. If I have learned anything in the last five years, it is that I have very little control and what I do have I owe to God.
When I was foolish enough to believe I could make plans without including God, he not so gently reminded me to talk to him. There have been a few major changes in my life, including a late in life baby, an out of wedlock granddaughter and a teenage exchange student from Germany, that have brought me to this point. Although, I knew to thank God for what I had, I didn’t believe that I needed to include him in my planning. He reminded me that he should be included in my planning, by changing all my plans.
Now, you may be saying, “What about free choice?” I believe we still have it. First, we have a choice to believe and listen to God or not. Secondly, when we reach a crossroads, God gives us several choices. He knows what the outcomes of the choices are. It is up to us to make the choice and follow through. Some of these choices will cause you pain and distress. There may be days when you regret your choice. This is the day you say Thank You the loudest. Now you are probably saying, “Chris, are you crazy? Why would I say thank you when things are so bad?”
My response would be, “This is the time when you need to be the most thankful. God has given you these trials, to get you to the place he wants you to be. Maybe, one of the other choices would have been easier, but God felt that you needed a little more trial by fire. In the final outcome you will be better because of the trials and God will have a servant of incomparable value.”
So, what do we thank God for? We thank him for everything. You thank him for the gifts, you thank him for the trials, and you thank him for being alive. Anything that you can think of, you can say Thank You for.
Yes, we do have to say Thank You to God. Because, ultimately if it were not for God we would not be here. Therefore, Thank God everyday, especially during this season of love and thanks, and then eat another slice of turkey and say Thank You again.