Be careful what you're thankful for
I’ve been seeing some Thanksgiving expressions of gratitude to what “our God” has done for us, and I have to say that “our God” talk leaves me a little queasy. You know, that “Our God is a mighty God” stuff and things like it.
It may not be the intention of such writers to suggest that “your God” isn’t much, after the manner of Elijah contending with the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. But there is something about the possessive that sounds a little smug, as if to say that God is ours and we’ve got him in our pocket.
Any honest theologian is going to be straight with you that divinity is not to be contained and circumscribed, and that all the tomes of theology are limited and incomplete—that is, failed—attempts to describe the indescribable. So a little more humility would be in order.
It is not as if we particularly merited good fortune. I myself had the unearned benefit of being born male, white, and American; if I have done better than some, I had a head start in this world. So if I am going to express gratitude, it’s not going to be a God-is-on-my-side whoop.
Rather, I think I should be grateful for parents and grandparents who were indulgent of the peculiar child they were saddled with, and did not warp him too much; for teachers who were encouraging to unpromising material; for wife and children who contrive to endure an irritable, cranky personality on the premises; and, perhaps most of all, for luck in having survived for so long stupid and self-destructive actions.
So it’s off to the paragraph factory to prepare the stories you’ll read tomorrow, if you’re not too drunk and logy. And tomorrow, at table with family, I will lift a glass in awareness that the world has many good things for us to enjoy, gifts that we did not earn of our own merit.