The self and gratitude
Giving thanks involves being grateful. Being grateful requires self-awareness—self-definition. Traditionally, the Thanksgiving holiday provides each of us with opportunities to express our gratitude to those around us and to God for his grace, his many mercies, his loving care, his on-going nurturance, and, for me, most of all, his unceasing availability.
The object of that gratitude begins to define the nature of our relationship with him. That for which we thank him indicates the dimensions of our self-awareness—our knowledge of who and what we are as human beings.
Through God, we finally learn that we can know ourselves.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts (Ps. 139:23).
What God clearly wants from us is a connection. He wants it to be a two-way street in which both parties send and receive messages. But it is only through self-definition in both human and spiritual terms that we are able to respond to God.
Too many of us allow ourselves to be defined by others—by our parents, our friends, the grades we received in school, or the judgmentalism of uncaring others. Where those messages have goals of diminishment, we tend to criticize ourselves—to see ourselves defined by labels like “inadequate,” or “ugly,” or “worthless.” Where this message is overly inflating we become self-centered, narcissistic and grandiose. We take this information and expand it into a self-image.
Because we have not accepted the personal responsibility of self-definition, we reject becoming autonomous. Because we reject autonomy, we see God only through the eyes, the image, and the concepts of the one who defined us. We are inauthentic. We can only become fully authentic, genuinely real, when we know what it is that inhibits our growth toward authenticity.
An available God confronts us.
You know when I sit and when I rise (Ps. 139:2a), and love me any way.
You perceive my thoughts from afar (Ps. 139:2b), and love me regardless.
You discern my going out and my lying down (Ps. 139:3a), and love me in spite of me.
You are familiar with all my ways (Ps. 139:3b), and love me despite it all.
We must, then, stand back and look at ourselves, believing that the criteria we use for that examination is a gift from God. Christ becomes the basis of our knowledge of the human condition. As Karl Barth said: “Jesus is our mirror, and through grace we are accepted by him.”
So, what does your mirror reveal to you? Have you looked into the reflective life of Christ as a model for your humanness? How much do you sacrifice on behalf of the people Jesus loved—the poor, destitute, unloved of our society? How much thanksgiving do you offer for the significant people in your life from childhood to adulthood?
I must ask myself—“Do I show the generosity of spirit that Jesus showed? Do I engage in even a minimal effort to actualize the commitments Jesus made? Do I reveal even a portion of the grace in my life that Jesus showed in his?”
Thank you, Lord for your never-ending love and grace, for your unceasing availability and for your willingness to put up with the likes of me.