Two days ago my team, the Green Bay Packers, was knocked out of the playoffs by my friend’s team. I forgive my friend, because in fact neither of us had the first thing to do with the victory or defeat. I believed, see my Twitter feed, that wearing a “cheese head” might help the Pack go, but it did not and could not have done so. They are not (except for the one share of stock in the team I own) “my team.”
After the game, I went on-line to discover that we Packers fans could publicly forgive our friends for their bad choice in favorite teams (the 49ers? Really?), but certainly could not forgive the defense for their "chokes." Men like I am, who can scarcely walk from parking lot to office without wheezing, were critical of athletes playing in Arctic conditions for “inexcusable” drops.
“Our” team let us down and we are not going to take it anymore!
In the midst of this first-world rage, came a thought: Aaron Rodgers, Michael Hyde, and the rest of the Packers are people.
They lost a game in the last three seconds. I bet they are sad!
All season, at no cost to me, they fought as hard as they could to win the NFC North. They did so, but only to have a slew of injuries. Aaron Rodgers broke a collarbone only to have us question his toughness.
Aren’t I a bit ungrateful to these real people... unless they win “me” the Super Bowl?
So thank you, 2013 Green Bay Packers! You played hard, were in some memorable games (Dallas! 4th and playoffs!) and provided me hours of entertainment without demanding I spend a dime. You tried hard and I, at least, am thankful.
But then it occurred to me that nobody on the Packers will be very thankful that I am thankful, since they will not read this or anything else I say. My thanksgiving stops here.
What of the other people in my life?
Have I thanked the inimitable Linda Clark for making our office a joyous place over the Holidays? How about my two associate provosts who work so hard and carefully? Have I thanked my faculty for another term of excellent teaching? Have I thanked Dr. Sloan for the joy of working here?
I turn to my church and realize that I have not thanked my pastor, Father Richard, for his excellent sermons and pastoral care. Have I thanked the choir director for our excellent music? My brother works hard with the youth group. Have I thanked him?
I am brought to my family, and debt of thanks grows greater. Hope does so many good deeds that nobody notices. I don’t thank her enough. The children, all grown up now, do their best to be good citizens in our home. I take that too often for granted.
God deserves my heart-felt thanks, but generally gets a only list of my next demands.
Do we ever stop and allow the people around us to “win?” Do we say: “before moving to the next goal or project . . . well done!” or do we imply that the only thing that matters is what they do today?
How often do I stop and enjoy other people's small victories, or even the small wins in my own life? How often am I thankful? Do I get one thing done and then push on to the next?
Looking back in my prayer journals from a decade ago, I can see answered prayer. Trials taxed me to the limit that are done. Sins tested me, but now I have some freedom. For one moment, one hour, one day can I turn Godward and be thankful, asking for nothing.
The commercials that come right after gift-giving often imply that if we did not get all we wanted we should treat ourselves to even more gifts. Before we have finished using gifts given by love, we are taught to look forward to the next present. We buy one phone and, in days, anticipate the next one: newer, faster, better.
We hope that if we diet, work out, read more, go to art galleries that we too will be newer! faster! better! Never, not for one moment, does the commercial break actually break from commercial activity. Having made us laugh, the comedy must make us laugh again. Having made us cry, the tragedy must wring one more tear.
This must stop. We must stop. The healing will begin when we are simply thankful, when we stop listing our parents' faults, or co-workers' faults, our team’s faults, or our faults and simply hallow His Name.
May my next activity be done from the restful position of gratitude for the good that has gone before – not ignoring faults, but not being obsessed with them. All have fallen short of the glory of God, but my thankful focus should begin with the glory of God, not the falling short.
Even with so simple a pleasure as "my" Packers, I'll savor the good they did before saying impatiently: “Wait until next year!”