Is it odd that we’ve built a holiday around thankfulness? That we’ve chosen one day out of the year on which we are required to at least feign gratitude?

Isn’t thankfulness a more spontaneous impulse? Something we express in the moment we receive a surprise gift or when we’re overcome with all that’s gone right in our day? Surely thankfulness isn’t something we’re supposed to muster up, create ex-nihilo, put actual effort into. That sounds too much like work.

It’s work that every year we decide to attempt a little less diligently. We’ve moved from only spending the day of thanksgiving planning what we intend on buying to actually starting the retail craze twelve hours early. Thankfulness is too difficult; buying more of what we don’t need is easier.

It’s been overwhelming me at odd moments lately. In the middle of a drive when I press “pause” on my ipod and let goodness wash over me in the silence. Walking out of a coffee shop, new words inscribed on my attempt at a novel. The beautiful tales told by a friend, laughter like a bridge over the time we’ve missed. Thankfulness for all that is sacred in the midst of a perfectly normal day.

But there have been times – of course there have been times – when gratefulness was a more clench-jawed affair. Thankfulness spat like curses, forced out of me by the unfathomable command to “be thankful always” and to “enter His gates with thanksgiving”. Eyes squished closed, beginning felt more like denial. How can you say thankful words when pain and fear and stress are all that hide inside?

And then you begin. You remember the strength that came from nowhere in the worst moments. You think how you speak your thankfulness to One who has known immeasurable pain and weeps with you. You listen to your breath moving slowly in and out of your lungs and you remember the One who put it there.

Slowly your eyes are pried open. Thankfulness, you discover, is not a command meant for God’s benefit – but your own. He doesn’t need to hear your “thank you”. He wants you to notice all that is holy and good around you. Thankfulness does its healing, energizing work. In the face of circumstance and commercialism – inadequacy and confusion, thankfulness creates a tiny space for wholeness.

For those of you celebrating a holiday of thankfulness today, Happy Thanksgiving!

For all of you – may you practice the good work of thanksgiving and experience the restoration it brings.