Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. — James 4:14
This Thanksgiving, my children and I made it to Chicago just in time to say goodbye to my dear aunt. We prayed with her, painted her fingernails, and told her that we loved her. At the end, with my sister playing her show tunes on the grand piano, my aunt knew that she wasn’t alone. She died as she lived, surrounded by love.
Life is short. As the years go whipping by, it’s clear that the real enemy isn’t an annoying coworker or a political opponent or the empty bank account. The real enemy is time. There is never enough.
Death reveals the truth: that almost everything can be made better as long as there are years to live and time to heal it. Death removes options. It’s final.
I’m thankful for Thanksgiving. It forces a slowdown. We take time off, eat abundant food, and look around the table at family and friends and pray and express gratitude. We should be doing these things more often. It’s good that we do it annually.
My aunt told my mom that she wishes she’d had slowed down more. The women in our family are forces of nature–constantly in motion, relentlessly pursuing. We’re not so great at doing nothing and just being. So my dear aunt slowed down when she got sick and that’s when she finally had some time to think. She wishes she’d had done it sooner.
Thanksgiving is a forced slowdown. The Sabbath day, for those who still keep it, is a forced slowdown. The practices of prayer and meditation are times of forced slowdown.
In that slowness, there’s room for gratitude. Gratitude needs space to fill. Gratitude needs time and as it receives time, stretches it while inhabiting it. Gratitude makes life bigger, more plentiful.
We are so blessed as Americans. We live better than kings. We eat as emperors. We work long hours and fill our time with trivialities, so abundant are our blessings.
Americans need Thanksgiving now more than ever. We need time to be thankful. We need time to reflect. We need to be forced to make time for what is most important.
Abraham Lincoln knew what Americans needed and said this:
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.
And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.
While we’re still living, we have time for restoration. We have time to come to peace, harmony, tranquility, and union. Here’s to redeeming the time and embracing gratitude for our many blessings.
Wishing you all the time you need and that it be filled with gratitude this Thanksgiving.