This is my Thanksgiving edition of Truth In Tunes. I am excited for the holiday season! I relish the challenge of being calm and reflective upon the meaning of these holidays, despite the barrage of media and retail circuses around me. As a result, I intend to offer several posts about my favorite Christmas songs starting after this week.
Today, the theme is gratitude (of course) and for this entry I am enlisting the help of long time Christian music artist, Sara Groves. Musically, Groves’ music has always been hit or miss for me; but lyrically, she stands apart as one of the brightest, and most authentic voices out there. Her songs teach and preach in a way that often times cut through the usual cliches and token phrases we hear so often in Christian music.
The Other Side of Something is one of her best collection of songs, and “What I Thought I Wanted” cuts to the heart of the art of being thankful:
I passed understanding a long, long time ago
And the simple home of systems and answers we all know
What I thought I wanted, what I got instead
Leaves me broken and somehow peaceful I keep wanting You to be fair, but that’s not what You said
I want certain answers to these prayers, but that’s not what You said
When I get to heaven I’m gonna go find Job
I want to ask a few hard questions, I want to know what he knows
About what it is he wanted and what he got instead
How to be broken and faithful… I’m broken and grateful
I want to be broken and grateful
I want to be broken, peaceful, faithful, grateful, grateful
It’s true, this song is more about being grateful amidst the trials of life, instead of being thankful for turkey, family and our nation’s historical roots. But, for the believer, thanksgiving and gratitude are key marks of our faith that go well beyond an annual tradition. If we aren’t challenging ourselves to cherish gratitude throughout each day of the year, then Thanksgiving becomes hypocrisy.
I’ve always been struck by how much contrast there is between this holiday and how we as a society operate the rest of the time. We are a thin-skinned people, with our consumer-centric mentality and our heartless lawsuits, etc. Complaining, competing and debt dominate our decisions and opinions; yet, these things are all gratitude killers. But then, for one moment in the year, we all appear to drop our guards, gather together as family and friends, and reflect on what we have….At least, until the football game starts and the midnight madness trip to the stores rekindles our regular state of being.
I know, I’m such a killjoy, right? Look, I’m guilty of everything I’m talking about here and so I point the finger at me first. And, no, football and shopping are not inherently evil. Let me just say that comparing my life and my world around me to the life of Job (as Sara Groves talks about in this song) brings about a stark contrast that results in conviction for me. In the fray of his trials, which will always be more extreme than yours or mine, Job was able to say, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. But blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Job was broken yet grateful. We are all going to experience trials in our life where we go through brokenness. Who knows, maybe you are there right now and this Thanksgiving feels a little awkward or scornful for you. You probably don’t really feel like being thankful, despite the face that you put on for others. Well, I’ll tell you a little secret to everlasting, authentic gratitude: it’s Jesus Christ.
Colossians 2:6-8 puts this secret into the form of a promise and an encouragement: “And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powersof this world, rather than from Christ.”
This isn’t a state of gratitude that we can accomplish instantly or even overnight. But in time, God’s promises, fueled by His unending well of grace and love for us, will prevail and we will see that authentic gratitude is the only real thing left in our hearts. Let Jesus chip away at the gunk around your modern heart and mind, so that this reality of peace and thankfulness that only comes through Him can begin to reshape you.
What we thought we wanted in this life is nothing compared to what we have in Christ our Lord! Give thanks for that!