Although giving thanks would seem to be a reflexive instinct, in our age of arch egocentrism, it actually requires a special kind of magnanimity, a version of spiritual surrender. Writing in the New York Sun, Mark Steyn provides his usual blend of caustic wit and historical depth to this uniquely American holiday, distinguishing our great Republic from the rest of the world in the ways that matter most.
But to grasp a more meaningful understanding of thankfulness we’re obliged to move from the locus of American exceptionalism back into the realm of our personal lives, because it’s there that our individual universe exists, with family, friends, and work.
It’s an irony of our times that the secularist character of our culture obliquely assures us that any measure of success we’ve achieved, or indeed, the fruits of a loving family, are of our own creation. After all, we’re the ones who march into the fray of the business world, whether as the small business owner, teacher, or captain of industry; and is it not our own selfless dedication to our spouses and children that has sustained our families during challenging times when lesser mortals would have conceded defeat?
Well, frankly, no. While they have an understandable allure in the microcosmic world of the individual, self-congratulations are among the most ephemeral of human impulses and are of little utility as teaching instruments. In contrast, perhaps the most primal human motivation is that which drives us to consider the existence of a being greater than ourselves– not to diminish our human achievements–but to put them in a context that more correctly defines their genesis.
If we take a candid introspective view of ourselves, in particular during times when we were locked in a crucible that tested us in ways we never thought possible, and if we carefully trace our progress from the world of the forlorn to rejuvenation, a kind of mystical wonderment obtains, because we’re at a loss as to how it transpired.
It’s during those times that we might recall a paraphrase from Scripture– God never places burdens on us without a corresponding measure of grace and wisdom, even if the latter are latent and only realized after the battle has subsided.
So as we enjoy this day with family or friends, we ought to give thanks, not only for the manifest benefits of living in nation where liberty is as omnipresent as air, but for the grace that God has so generously bestowed upon us, because it’s that which will sustain us through every challenge we face, from work to the inevitable times when our faith in Him falters.
May God bless you and yours on this great day of Thanksgiving.
Mella is editor of ClearCommentary.com.
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