Thanksgiving is weird to me.
I am naturally a person of short memories and long desires. High in energy and intensity, I blissfully seek out “the next best thing.” I run full throttle through my life, checking off all the ways I fail or succeed compared to those around me. It's an exhausting and often painful cycle of self worship.
We are simply not a culture of gratitude and I buy into it without a second glance. Seldom do I look past my desires to appreciate life in the moment and the God that brought me here. Seldom do I pause long enough to understand the depths of God’s provision in my life.
And yet, ironically, every year I gather around the table with family and friends to say a prayer and discuss what I’m thankful for. I live in the land of great abundance and provision, but I set aside time to give thanks only once a year. Digging deep into gratitude is shamefully the last of my priorities and I suffer all the more for it.
The book of Deuteronomy reminds me of the struggle with recognizing and worshipping God in the land of plenty.
Over and over, Moses preaches to the Isrealites to “Remember the Lord”. He urges his people to dwell on the provision and providence that is their God. He is the God that brought them out of slavery. Through plagues and miracles, they were set free. He is the God that brought them through the wilderness. Raining down manna for their sustenance, they did not starve.
But Moses knew they were facing their harshest challenge yet: the land of plenty.
Moses knew what we know so well. When you have everything you need, it’s easy to get lazy.
These people, who for a generation had intimate recognition of their God, were about to be delivered into a land of great provision. No longer would they see manna raining from the sky. No longer would they be wanderers dependant on the moment. They were about to live in “a land with large, flourishing cities [they] did not build,houses filled with all kinds of good things [they] did not provide, wells [they] did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves [they] did not plant.” (6:10-11) Their lives were about to drastically change.
So what did Moses urge them to do? Remember.
He urged them to write God’s laws on their door frames and on their gates, to teach them to their children and their children’s children. He urged them to love their God well and pass on the stories of God’s provision.
We, too, are like the Israelites.
We are surrounded by plenty in cities we did not build, with wells we did not dig, with vast Super Markets of items we did not create, hunt, or farm. We have option on option on option. For generations there has been no end to our excess.
So what should we do? Remember.
Let’s take this day of Thanksgiving and use it to remember our God.
That car you are embarrassed to be seen in? Remember that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob blessed you with it.
Those chubby thighs you desperately try to hide under your jeans? The same God that created the world, blessed you with strong legs that bring you through the world.
That menial job you dread going back to on Monday? The God who rained down manna for provision for his people, blessed you with the provision of employment.
Life is desperately hard whether you are in the wilderness or surrounded by provision. The only thing we can truly control is our response to it. As we sit around fancy tables with our decadent food, let us dig deeper than the bright and shiny things we are thankful for. Let us see our lives with new light.
It is easy to make false idols of our things and of ourselves, especially when we’re under the illusion that we are in control. This is our chance to tear down our altars to greed and excess. This is our opportunity to remember life in the wilderness and who our God truly is
We do not worship or follow our new cars, our big houses, or even our families. We do not worship our reputations, our social media pages, or our aspirations.
We worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We worship the God who made David a king and Mary a mother. We worship the God who would humble himself to a manger and deliver himself to a cross. HE is who we worship. He is the one who provides for us. From our first day, to our dying breath, he is the core of it all.
Remember and give thanks. Tell your children and your children’s children of how the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob provided for you. Write it on your door frames and shout it from the rooftops. Hallelujah! YAHWEH-JIREH has kept his promise!