Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Thanks and No Thanks

What are you not thankful for? Was it the green bean casserole at your thanksgiving table? The uncle who couldn’t stop goading you on about Donald Trump? The evangelical cousin who did quite believe in your secular grace and said another just in case? I have found it very helpful to save some room for what we are not thankful for after thanksgiving; a sort of spiritual purging of the soul. If only we would have said no thanks to the second helping of pie. It is possible to go too far: You all have heard of the man who climbed up to the roof to out wait a storm, he prayed to God to deliver him. Just then a boat came by “jump in” said the owner, “No thanks, I am waiting to be saved by God”. The boat man shrugged and off he went. The water level started coming up the roof, just then a second boat came along and again the same answer.  Finally, a rescue helicopter flew overhead and they shouted out “grab hold of the ladder”. “No thanks” came the reply, “I am waiting for God to save me”. The floor overtook him and he drowned. Upon reaching heaven he asked God “Why didn’t you save me?” to which the Almighty replied “I tried. Apparently two boats and a helicopter weren’t good enough for you.”

So post-thanksgiving we know what we are thankful for but how about what we are not thankful for. I am thankful for the rich bookish world and academic grounding of my heritage, but not so thankful for its cool emotional distance. Others are thankful for wealth, others for love.

But my point here is that your name, like your past represents a part of you and in some way we can all be thankful for what it has given us. I often say that no experience goes unlearned. There are those around us who have suffered enormously. I know of one woman who had been abused by her family, married twice and divorced by the time she was 19. She had had 4 different last names. When I met her she had chosen her own name from a novel and went to the courthouse to make it hers. Despite her hard past she still gave thanks though for the lessons she learned. She is a tremendous human being, kind, caring, a good judge of character and had the life experience to relate to almost anyone. It was as if in choosing her own name and leaving all those other names behind her she had moved on to what her life had taught her and what she was truly thankful for.  Thanks for the lessons of life, she said, but no thanks for those markers to the past that were so painful.

With Grace and Grit, John