I know what you're thinking - hey, Aidan. You're about a day early.
Blame the pillow.
You know - those pillows that say "Thankful, grateful, blessed." That's the one I'm talking about. Some of them change the word order a bit - "Grateful, thankful, blessed," but I think thankful usually comes first. At least, in terms of our hearts. And well, since it is the season for thankfulness, I thought we might as well take a few days and explain what that really means.
Most of us think that thankful and grateful are synonyms, that they mean roughly the same thing. Kind of the way we treat mercy and grace, even though anyone who has read this blog for awhile knows that mercy and grace are actually two distinctly different things. Well, so are thankfulness and gratefulness. Two distinctly different things.
Thankfulness has to do with something's perceived impact on our lives. We are thankful for the things that make our lives better. We are thankful for opportunities that we have to do certain things or to have certain things or to be certain things because we know that these things improve our quality of life. They make us happier. Whole-er. More fulfilled. Holier. We are thankful for things that fundamentally change the nature of our experience in the world for the good.
Now, when it comes to thankfulness, it doesn't matter where these things come from. Thankfulness doesn't think a whole lot about the origin of the gift; it is too busy simply receiving and enjoying it. It is too busy reaping the benefits of the goodness to think much beyond that.
That sounds like a bad thing, but not necessarily. We are wired to enjoy goodness. We are created to just settle into a rhythm of goodness and let it be wonderful in our lives. In goodness, our souls find rest, and it makes perfect natural sense that we would just be thankful in such a time.
But it is also an echo of our own self-centeredness. It is, after all, a primarily self-centered reflection. I am thankful because this has made my personal life better, and I am enjoying this because I deserve to enjoy it...or at least, I want to enjoy it. Thankfulness fills us up with the satisfaction of the good life and, like many of us will do tomorrow, inspires us to loosen our belt loops a little bit and make ourselves bigger.
Again, this sounds like a bad thing, but most of us could use to be more thankful in our lives. Most of us could use the kind of satisfaction that arises from the good things. Most of us could use the measure of rest that comes from thankfulness, that peace that gets down deep in our souls.
So this season, be thankful. Be thankful for the good things that make your life better. Be thankful for the things that fill you up so much that you have to make yourself bigger. Be thankful for all of the wonderful things in the world that make your good life possible.
But be more than that, too. Because the pillow is right. There is more to this season - and to this life - than thankfulness.
Tomorrow, we'll talk about how gratefulness, though it seems so much the same, goes even deeper into goodness.