What We're Missing on Thanksgiving Day

Originally published Tuesday, 25 November 2014.

I roamed the shoe aisle, slightly overwhelmed by the assortment of colors and options. Who knew there were so many decisions involved in picking a shoe?

Someone bumped into me as they tried to fit through the narrow box-lined corridor. Gee, I thought to myself. The least they could do is say "excuse me" before running over someone like that. But then, it IS the start of Black Friday. Good manners take a backseat when $14.99 loafers are at stake.

I continued perusing the running shoe selection, growing increasingly confused over the price variations and various descriptions. What made the $72.99 shoe better than the $39.99 one, when they were both running shoes created by the same brand and originally priced the same, too?

I found myself wanting the more expensive shoe, just because the higher price tag created a perceived value difference. But I had perfectly fine running shoes at home, waiting to be taken out to the gym. I didn't even need new shoes.

But it's such a good deal! I reasoned with myself. If I had those shoes, I would be more motivated to run.

Yeah. Right.

We all know how that works: you buy something hoping it will solve your innermost deep problems?

Epic fail.

Every time.

Because, folks, it's a heart issue. I'll exercise if I decide in my heart that health is an important issue to me. Buying stuff isn't going to do that.

And really, didn't we just celebrate Thanksgiving? You know, the day set aside to remember and give thanks for all the things we already have?

Family. Health. Jobs. Homes. Food. Even those dusty, worn, but-still-perfectly-fine shoes shoved behind my laundry sink because that's where I dumped them after my last run. Those, too. I should be grateful for them.

But instead I'm standing there in the aisle, surrounded by droves of other Black Friday shoppers trying to swoop up the best door busters. I look at the carts, piled high with flannel shirts, cozy microfiber throws, flat-screen tvs, pink tricycles, and everything in between. A whole nation has just said "thank you" for the abundance they have, and mere hours later they're coveting that which they don't.

The truth is, we don't really need a Thanksgiving Day as much as we need a thanksgiving heart. A heart that will continue to give thanks even after the meal is over.

Don't get me wrong: I love me some good sales, and giant corporations will throw out some great deals to draw in consumers. ($4.55 waffle maker? Yes, please!) But deep down inside, I need to cultivate a heart of gratitude for the things I already have. Otherwise, I risk filling my house and my soul with stuff in the hopes of achieving an ever-elusive feeling of satisfaction. I'm reminded of Paul's gentle reminder to Timothy:

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
~1 Timothy 6

Contentment and thanksgiving go hand-in-hand, but too often I divorce the two, giving thanks for the turkey on the table and wishing I had some corn souffle to go with it. 

Don't you?

We go around the dinner table and list the things we're thankful for, but deep in our hearts, we lack contentment.

I think God is calling us to something very different as we wrap up Thanksgiving 2013 and head into the holiday season:

11 I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all things through [Jesus Christ] who gives me strength.
~Philippians 4

Real thanksgiving is evident not so much on Thanksgiving Day as it is on Wednesday morning, when leftovers have run out and you're wondering what to pack for lunch. Or when you haven't slept a wink all night and need to function at work the next day. Or when your friend buys the newest model car and you're stuck in a beat-up 1994 Chevy. Or when your check bounces and payday is still three days out.

Real thanksgiving will overflow from a heart that is filled with Jesus. Because when Jesus fills your heart, you don't need anything else.

So will you join me in giving thanks not just today, but all year round?

May Jesus reign supreme in our hearts and in our lives, and may we give thanks with our lives 365 days a year.

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