“Give thanks in all circumstances” (I Thessalonians 5:18). Those words are written for the times when you are forced to sit beside Cousin Val at Thanksgiving. “Love thy enemy” (Matthew 5:44) could really just mean “love thy Uncle Phil.”
For some, the family gatherings of Thanksgiving can make you feel like a leper, unclean and an outcast. The book of Leviticus spends two whole chapters teaching how to diagnose diseases of the skin, how to pronounce lepers ritually unclean, and how to perform rites of purification should they be healed. As for the lepers, they had to live outside the city walls and whenever someone approached they had to cover their mouth as they cried, “Unclean, unclean.” It’s like the kids screaming out the window as the RV pulls into the driveway, “Cousin Eddie, Cousin Eddie, is here!”
There is a story in the bible about lepers and thanksgiving (Luke 17:11-19). Jesus is trying to get to Jerusalem because he has some important business to take care of, our salvation. But on the way, he is stopped by ten lepers. Out of respect they keep their distance, but they cry out, “Jesus, have some mercy!” He takes notice, sees the need, but recognizing his strict time schedule, he replies to the guys, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” It was on the way to the priest that they realize, “We are clean, we don’t have leprosy anymore.” Nine keep walking but one turns around and heads back to Jesus. He finds Jesus and says, “Thank you!” Jesus looks around and says, “Wasn’t there ten?” And he responds to the one who came back, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
The nine didn’t do anything wrong. It’s just they missed out on the wholeness that comes from saying, “Thank you.” Life throws a lot of pain and hurt and loss at us. It can leave us feeling weighed down. A simple “Thank you” is our refrain that we have made it through the bad days. It helps us to realize that we are more than our worries, anxieties, and fears. In a give and take world, a “thank you” is a simple acknowledgement that life is a gift. When so many feel entitled, a “thank you” reminds us that we are blessed with opportunity. We can go through life demanding blessings but it is the one who returns with a “thank you” that discovers wholeness.
“Thank you”- It may not seem like a lot and the effort may not appear to be worth it but it is the words that carry us to an attitude of gratitude. Gratitude puts cheerfulness in your life. It is the antidote of fear. Gratitude says to worry and anxiety, “You are not robbing me of this day! Not today!” Nine lepers found healing. But the tenth discovered wholeness.
Who needs to hear those words from you? Is it Aunt Betty for her cranberry sauce? Or Uncle Eddie for being a good brother to your father? Or is it your children who rarely hear how they make you proud? Or is it your spouse who longs to be appreciated? Thanksgiving turns into thanks-living when we take the time to say, “Thank you.”