Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Every Day?

While listening to an Old Time Radio podcast recently, I heard the lead actor of one of the shows offer this reflection on the then-upcoming 1956 Thanksgiving holiday: "Why wait for next Thursday, or any Thanksgiving day?... (I)t seems to me, Thanksgiving should be every day."

Perhaps you've heard similar sentiments suggested from time to time. Whatever struggles we may face, we nonetheless have things for which we should be grateful. For those of us with a religious mindset, showing that gratitude by giving thanks to God is not only appropriate, but necessary. Even if we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday as it was intended to be, and not just as a time to eat extra portions of dinner, if we're only doing it once a year... well, perhaps it demonstrates that we're not grateful enough.

My intention is not to guilt anyone into being more grateful for whatever gifts you've been given. Indeed, not knowing your particular circumstances, such an attitude would be arrogant in the extreme. To the contrary, I want to say that, far from celebrating Thanksgiving every day, I think it's important that there is a specific holiday designed for this purpose, and that that it doesn't take place all year-round.

Over the past couple of years, Fuller Theological Seminary has redesigned its curriculum. One of the important tasks of such an endeavor is to prioritize what goals we expect our students to achieve by having completed a degree. What should they have learned? What new skills should they acquire? In a very meaningful sense, what kind of people has studying here helped them to become? Courses are packaged together to achieve as many of these goals as makes sense for a given topic. Among these goals is a greater attention to spiritual development. The question is how best to achieve such a goal. There was a temptation to say "all of our courses provide for spiritual development," and I'm sure that has always been true to some degree or another. However, it was pointed out during the process that "if you say that something shows up everywhere, it ends up showing up nowhere explicitly." We may think we're doing something without actually giving it any real attention. Thus, we made a conscious choice to incorporate areas of spiritual development into various courses.

In the same way, I'm concerned that if we say "Thanksgiving should be every day," and actually tried to somehow make it so, we would end up never giving proper attention to the need to give thanks. We need the reminder that a specific holiday brings. Perhaps it can (and should!) propel us to give thanks more often, but there will always be a need to be reminded to come back.

So, on this Thanksgiving holiday, I give thanks, not just for the various blessings in my life, but specifically for the fact that I live in a place that has a holiday that reminds me of my need to continue to do so. Thanks for Thanksgiving!

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