Thanksgiving as Forgiveness

“Thank you.” — “I’m sorry.” A simple redemption lives in those utterances. There is grace there.

During the hey-day of the charismatic renewal, at prayer meetings and Lord Day’s, there was always a time of thanksgiving, usually during praise and worship. A guitar would strum a sustained chord and await prayers of thanksgiving to chime in aloud: “I want to thank you Lord for the gift of life…” “Thank you Jesus for healing my sister…” “Thank you for gathering us all together here today…” A skilled worship leader had a sense of when it was the right time to start and finish, and how to use dynamics to lead right into the next song, usually on the chorus. An antiphon of sorts — I’m Forever Grateful or Give Thanks or something along those lines.

The insight to this ritual was beautiful: we should give thanks at all times, for all things. Prayers of thanksgiving ought to measure our prayers of intercession and adoration.

The simplicity of those times and rituals, throughout my childhood and adolescence, often makes them less memorable. There is nothing terribly special about them. Nothing stands out. No pyrotechnics. So I focus my attention elsewhere and, oftentimes, create alternate realities. I re-write my past according to the way I choose to recall and recast it in the present. I am often, then, thankful in a selective way. There is something inherently ungrateful about that. It’s out of tune, out of step, out of balance.

To be truly thankful, one must be thankful for ALL. Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for more than what we choose to give thanks for; it is time to be chastened by the gift of total gratitude. In this sense, thanksgiving is forgiveness.

An act of total thanksgiving can become a moment of true forgiveness. Healing. Thanksgiving as forgiveness heals without anesthesia — it remembers everything, dulls nothing. Have no fear! We can thank God for suffering, pain, weakness, and doubt. The Cross. There is nothing we cannot be thankful for. There are no wrong answers. We have nothing to repress or withhold.

Today I am thankful for my life. All of it. Every part of it. Every piece that builds and sustains the whole. Even the pieces I try to hide from others and, especially, from myself. From memory. We can’t remember everything, but the choice of what to remember and to forget is not as innocent as it seems. Today I try to give thanks as an act of surrender to the total, wholesome graciousness of existence, life, and being. I am especially thankful for forgiveness, the chance to try again and again. For conversion.

Giving total thanks is impossible. We are incapable of rendering an account of everything. The finite cannot grasp the infinite. This absolute gap is worthy of our thanks too. For only emptiness requires grace.

“Thank you.” — “I’m sorry.” A simple redemption lives in those utterances. There is grace there.





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