I have a sign in my living room that a crafty friend made me a few years back at my request. I love it and don't ever take it off its shelf but I realize now it doesn't say the right thing. It should read, 'How Many Days Until Thanksgiving' since that's what I'm really counting down to. Because when we finally get there, I stop counting and simply savor each day as my favorite through the end of the year.
We are inching closer and closer. Just nine days until we feast. It's time to start planning menus and grocery lists. For me, these recent years also mean changing sheets and anticipating the return of a college kid or two.
Oh you noticed I left out a certain newlywed couple? Well, I'm choosing denial as my coping mechanism because they will not be at our table next week. Sniff sniff. So I won't be talking about that today.
Scott continues to preach gratitude every Sunday with a new action item each week. Having homework keeps the subject on our minds continually.
I was thinking how nice it would be if saying thanks was my automatic first reaction to everything both wanted and unwanted. I mean, the natural knee jerk response like when I think about Christmas. I am immediately happy and excited and can't wait for all the traditions and festivities that come with it. Or when I think about my kids being all together with us. I am giddy and can't stop grinning.
Many of you know for years now I keep a daily list of what I'm grateful for, so that should mean I've mastered it, right? I'd like to tell you that's true, but let's be real here. I fail often. As I consider this, I realize there is an enemy to the practice of thanksgiving. It has a name and that name is entitlement.
Anyone raising teenagers is well aware of how this word presents itself. For example, I imagine many of you have heard this, "But their parents let them fill in the blank so I should be able to." Entitlement.
Or "I'm a senior and seniors deserve fill in the blank." Entitlement.
Or maybe you know someone who has reached a certain advanced age and says things like, "I have lived long enough now and deserve fill in the blank." Entitlement.
I think it's even starting much younger like when our kids come home comparing to their friends saying, "Mom, everyone has fill in the blank, I'll be an outcast if I'm the only one who doesn't." Entitlement.
It is so easy to see it in others, isn't it? What if we looked in the mirror at our grown-up selves? The truth is, I'm just as susceptible to copping this attitude as anyone else. Looking back over my life I'm embarassed at how many times I not only felt entitled but actually spoke it out loud. Cringe with me:
Like when I was approaching graduation from high school and tried telling my parents, "I'm 18, you can't tell me what to do. I can do whatever I want." Entitlement.
Or when I grumbled at age 20 because there wasn't a suitable mate in sight. "Why can everyone else find a husband? I should have one too." Entitlement.
Or maybe when several years into marriage and childbearing we were still bouncing between apartments unable to afford our own house. I whined, "It's not fair. Everyone else has a house. We work hard, we deserve one too." Entitlement.
Let's not forget the never ending comparison of our gifts and abilities to someone else's. "Why can't I write or speak or sing or play an instrument like her? I deserve to be good at any of those things." Entitlement.
Did you notice a second word that accompanies the self-infused entitlement? Deserve. Yuck. Where do I get off thinking I deserve anything someone else has?
I looked up entitlement in the dictionary and found this: "the right to be guaranteed benefits...." Rights. Now there's a culturally signifcant term.
Who among us doesn't feel we have the right to expect something we believe we deserve?
The person whose heart is steeped in gratitude, that's who.
You see, the common denominator and breeding ground for rights, deserving something and entitlement come from fixing our gaze horizontally (conforming to the world) on what others have or can do or have accomplished.
Comparison is a downward spiral, a losing game we dare not play, a trap we can't afford to fall into. Along with the others, it is also found at the root of entitlement.
It's what keeps us from being grateful.
It's what keeps us from being grateful.
When we compare with others, we give room for entitlement to grow in our hearts, which then gives birth to discontentment which will eventually take up every inch of space leaving no room for gratitude.
Jesus knew we might fall for this tactic of the enemy and gave us instruction through a conversation with Peter, whom He dearly loved. Jesus told Peter how he would live and how he would glorify God in his death. It wasn't very glamorous and certainly insinuated pain and suffering. Peter looked around.
He saw John nearby and asked Jesus what was going to happen to him. Jesus said to Peter, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!" John 21
I can so relate to Peter. God has pointed me to those verses many, many times when I'm given to whining, complaining and comparing.
"What is that to you, Angela? Follow me." In other words, "Mind your own business and keep your eyes on Me."
When I choose to follow Jesus, I am consciously trusting Him to lead me wherever He is going. Wherever He wants me. Because that place is where He will be too.
Yes, it may be tough. Yes, I may experience pain. Yes, I may be asked to go there alone. But, He will be there.
I don't know about you, but I don't want to be anywhere God isn't.
Choosing to follow Him with full trust births thanksgiving. My thoughts are then steered in the direction of Who I know God to be, what I read recorded in the Bible about His character and faithfulness, and what I've witnessed in my own life (listed in my journal).
And I give thanks. Come to think of it, I can't stop saying "Thank You" because He is not done. Not done with His kingdom agenda. Not done with me. There is so much more to come.
When I make room for all that, everything else dims.
Maybe as Thanksgiving approaches, we should pay closer attention to the words we speak or allow to be spoken in our homes. Have some of those nasty words above subtly crept into your heart and home? Do you see entitlement attitudes at work? Maybe you've never really noticed until now.
Remember, entitlement is the enemy of thanksgiving which means we need a radar up, sensitive to spotting it and squashing it so that gratitude has room to grow and reside long after the turkey leftovers are eaten.
Just a side note (let's call it a bonus!) - have you noticed that grateful people are much more pleasant to be around than Johnny Rainclouds? Me too and I know which one I'd rather be and be around.
It's certainly not too late to make some changes. I know I'll be working on this, requiring it of myself and urging it in the ones I'm raising.
Happy Thanksgiving friends. I'm grateful for you.