23 November 2012

Giving Thanks

A couple of weeks ago, I awoke to the sound of rain on the roof. The sky outside was grim and gray. The rain had driven away the summery warmth of the previous day.

The spluttering, drizzling chill of the day reminded me of Thanksgiving 2004, which I spent in Scotland. I still see, smell, and taste that traditional turkey-and-trimmings feast, prepared by Kansans in the fellowship hall of an ancient church in the heart of Dundee's city centre.

We were a small, curious potpourri of people, all in town for a wedding: the groom's family, half a dozen of his old youth group friends, and another family from our church, temporarily located to Scotland for academic work on cattle.

We were strangers in a strange land, and perhaps because of that, we were intensely thankful. We were glad for the castles in Edinburgh and Glamis, for the beach and ruins at St. Andrew's, for friends of friends who had generously shared their homes and their time to make us welcome.

I was in the middle of a hard semester of graduate school. In fact, I carried my English Grammar term project with me everywhere on the trip. I worked on it during flights and long car rides -- in any spare moment I could find. So this hiatus from school -- indeed, from the land of my birth -- was a welcome one. It distracted me just enough to remind me how very, very blessed I was.

For me, that Thanksgiving in Dundee was one of more intense gratitude than any I could remember. I found myself thanking the Almighty not only for the things that were going well in my life, but also for those that were not going well at all. It was one of the first times I felt like I had fulfilled Paul's command to the Thessalonians: "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

In the spirit of that prodigiously thankful day, I'd like to give thanks publicly for a few things that didn't go according to my plan. Each of these things brought me temporary pain of one sort or another, but time has proven to me that pain can give way to immense blessing.
  • I am thankful that every girl I went out with in college studiously avoided going on a second date with me.
  • I am thankful for the English faculty at the University of Kansas. Particularly, I am thankful for my advisor, Jim Hartman, who warned me to count the cost of pursuing a PhD, and for the graduate committee, who wisely declined my PhD application as I was finishing up my M.A.
  • I am thankful for the potential employers throughout northeast Kansas who decided to "go with another option" when evaluating my applications for employment.
  • I am thankful for the manager who humiliated me to the point of tears in a meeting two years ago.
  • I am thankful that my wife knows my darkest secrets and deepest flaws.
  • I am thankful that I turned out not to be a very good freshman English teacher. 
My current job, my relationship with my wife, and indeed, every direction my life has taken in the past seven years, seem to drip with God's guidance. I have seen my own plans thwarted often enough to recognize that His plans are invariably better. 

May I rely less on myself and increase my thankfulness in every circumstance as I continue growing in wisdom and maturity. 
What are you thankful for on this Thanksgiving weekend, dear reader? 

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