Opportunities for Thanksgiving
With Thanksgiving approaching I started reflecting on all the things I am thankful for and all the gifts I have been given. My family and friends, my job, my dog, a home, hugs from Pre-K kids, chocolate, wine, etc. Then I started thinking about what I may have forgotten and it hit me: We tend to forget to be thankful for the things that have perhaps shaped us the most, the events or people that force us to grow and stretch. It was a lightbulb moment.
Maybe the things we need to be more thankful for are the things we would avoid if we could. Like loss and waiting and conflict. Fortunately, God knows better and is wonderful at providing us with opportunities to grow in virtue.
These opportunities aren’t all rainbows and butterflies, more like porcupines and thunderstorms. I know my first response might be anger, annoyance, or disheartenment. But, when I really think about it, or look back after struggling through (because seriously how many of us are actually thinking about growing in virtue in the heat of the moment?), I realize I should thank God for all those chances He’s given me to grow. Like the co-worker that really gives me an opportunity to practice charity. Or that student that pushes my patience past it’s limits and allows, or forces, me to stretch it just a little bit farther. It could be getting assigned a work project I really don’t want to do, that invites me to practice joyful obedience. Or, experiencing a prayer life that feels empty or dark, challenging me to grow in fortitude, perseverance, and faith. (If you think you are alone in this you should read St. Teresa of Calcutta’s Dark Night of the Soul.) Maybe it’s waiting for that one thing that I desire above all others, and have been praying for forever, that encourages me to practice acceptance, trust in God’s plan, patience, more patience, and even more patience. Those last two, they’re hard. I’m not at the “Thank you God for these struggles” stage yet, but I’m working towards it.
At any moment these events can seem annoying or even pointless. Yet, these are some of the things we should be most thankful for: the trials and tribulations that offer us daily opportunities to grow in virtue. Of course, we should be thankful for all the wonderful gifts God has given us: family, friends, our health, a home. . . but let’s not forget to be thankful for our crosses too. It is these crosses that provide us the opportunities to draw ever closer to Him. So the next time you are thanking God for all the beautiful things in your life, don’t forget to thank Him for the struggles that lead you to that beauty.
Written by: Katie Garrett, YCP Omaha Parish Ambassador