Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. When I was younger, I used to like the more festive holidays that featured huge gatherings, loud fireworks, and crazy games. As I’ve grown up, I’ve grown fonder of Thanksgiving, a much quieter holiday–at least around my family.
The huge appeal to Thanksgiving for me is the fellowship that surrounds it: every year, it is a time for families and friends to reunite and, typically, enjoy a meal together. Since coming to college, I have begun to understand how much I am blessed by my family and how much they matter to me. Yes, my brothers, parents, and sister have their faults and can easily drive me crazy; yet these are the people who have walked down life’s twisting pathways with me and call me often to check on me. They love me deep down regardless of how we can fight or irritate each other. They force me to do good things that I don’t want to do but should do, namely eating asparagus. Family is a priceless gift, and I thank God everyday for them because I know how fragile family is and how few families have withstood the test of time.
Thanksgiving also gives me a chance to hop off the endless hamster-wheel of life–that incessant race to prove that my life matters, that I’m a not a failure, that I’m a good son, brother, or student. In the past, I worked at a feverish pace in the classroom and on the field because I was terrified by the mere shadow of failure. I succeeded because I abhorred failure. Although God has taught me to pursue Him and rest in the assurance of Jesus’ work, I drift back into the frantic hustle of achievement if I take my eyes off of Christ. When Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter roll by each each year, God reminds me of the truth of the gospel: I do not have to be good, or even try to be good, because Christ was perfect and died that I might stand before God in his righteousness. Thanksgiving reminds me that I can step off life’s hamster-wheel and love God and others because of Jesus.
During the year, petty annoyances often blind me to what’s really important. The beauty of Thanksgiving lies in the fact that it’s a time for me to forget the small things and remember the great things. Maybe I had two sections of homework to do for Calculus in one weekend; maybe my ethernet did not work for several weeks; maybe I grow tired of the cafeteria’s food; maybe I had a long paper on the gospel to write; maybe the cold bothers me; maybe it’s hard to throw a frisbee in the wind–yet regardless of how many petty annoyances I can muster, I am blessed, truly blessed. I can eat three meals a day. I have plenty of warm clothes. I have several pairs of shoes. I have a strong body that I can use to play sports. I have good health. I have money. I can attend OBU. I have many good friends. I have a computer. The list can go on and on.
Can I look at these blessings and still complain? Definitely. I can complain about the food and say that it’s bland or repetitive (I think the OBU cafeteria staff do a great job preparing great meals). I can complain about my clothes and say that they are not the most stylish or they are uncomfortable. I can complain about my shoes and say that they are old or smelly. I can complain about my body endlessly if I wanted. I can complain about my health and say that it is not as good as someone else’s health. I can complain about my bank account and say that it is insignificant. I can complain about attending OBU and point out all its flaws. I can complain about my friends by blinding myself to all their good qualities. I can complain about my computer’s speed or screen size. Complaining is easy; I could do it in my sleep (Speaking of sleep, I could complain about . . . ).
Though complaining is easy, I do not complain because the small, petty things pale in light of the great things. It is hard for me to complain about the cafeteria when I remember that I have food. Growing up in Southeast Asia, I had plenty of opportunities to see the emaciated figures of people who haven’t had the luxury to eat, a luxury that I’ve enjoyed my entire life. It’s hard for me to complain about my room in Agee when I can close my eyes and drift off to sleep without worrying that someone will attack me or a bomb will explode near me. Complaining seems ridiculous to me. During Thanksgiving, I’m reminded of all the great things, and all petty annoyances lose their sting.
Thanksgiving is certainly one of my favorite holidays for the many things that it offers: fellowship, rest, and perspective.