I write this during the week of Thanksgiving, a holiday which seems set apart for counting my blessings. This year however is vastly different for me than the ones that have come before, primarily because in the month’s leading up to this Thanksgiving I’ve spent time nightly remembering the day and writing down what it is I’m grateful for.
The importance of gratitude has been slowly creeping in on me for years now. In my younger days I thought being grateful was nothing more than a decent virtue, another tool in my belt so to speak. Sadly, through the years I’ve grown to use resentment rather than gratitude, which became a much larger and destructive tool. At first I thought holding onto resent would injure only me, if injure anyone at all. I now see that resentment worked less like a hammer for building up and more like a shovel for digging an ever deeper hole within me. As it worked its due diligence, I began to become more and more chaotic in how I tried to fill the hole which resentment ceaselessly dug. This arrived me at a lonely, sour and regretful place. A place I’m now happy to have walked away from. This move away from resent came in large part by grateful remembering.
This Thanksgiving, not only can I be grateful for hanging up the tool of resentment (hopefully for good), but I can be grateful for the process which led me to this place of gratitude. There is a sense in which in order for me to live fully in the present I must diligently and honestly remember my past.
Grateful Remembering Leads to Life
In the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous there is the story of Dave B., one of the founders of A.A. in Canada. He penned these words to begin his tale:
‘Telling my story reminds me that I could go back to where I was if I forget the wonderful things that have been given to me or forget that God is the guide who keeps me on this path.’
Not only does remembering serve to prompt us into gratitude for the past, but it seems to be the very tool which keeps us on God’s path in the present towards the future. As Dave sees it, if we forget where we’ve been brought from in our past, we very likely will lose our future. It seems critical then that we heed this call to remember.
This same focus on remembering is seen in Scripture as well. In Deuteronomy 32:7 God gives Moses these words to sing to the Israelites:
‘Read up on what happened before you were born; dig into the past, understand your roots. Ask your parents what it was like before you were born; ask the old-ones, they’ll tell you a thing or two.’
He goes on to sing about the plight of Israel, their continual turning away from and being rescued by God. Towards the end of this song of remembrance (verses 45-47), he tells the audience why it’s so important to remember these words
‘Take to heart all these words to which I give witness today…This is no small matter for you; it’s your life. In keeping this word you’ll have a good and long life in this land that you’re crossing the Jordan to possess.’
It’s not just for gratitude or sentimentality that he sings, but for much, much more. The act of gratefully remembering where we’ve been brought from helps to get us where we are going.
This year after Thanksgiving, don’t leave grateful remembering in the fridge next to the leftover turkey. I encourage you to put a journal at your bed-side and at the end of each day check on and write down any resentments (who or what are you holding anger against), and then write down at least three things for which you’re grateful.
As you remember with gratitude where you’ve been brought from, you’ll be made ready to receive where it is God is taking you.