There is a favorite C.S. Lewis quote I like to read my family on vacations and holidays, especially Thanksgiving. I discovered it on page 184 of John Piper’s book, When I Don’t Desire God:
“I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it. Then I moved so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.”
Lewis’s picture is vivid, and by it he describes the right way to give thanks. There is a kind of gratitude that is self-focused and attentive to the things I’ve been given. It’s better than ungratefulness, but Lewis’s kind of gratitude is of a different kind. He sees the gifts we’ve been as a means to beholding the giver of gifts. In another quotation, Lewis explains the mechanics of how this works:
“Pleasures are shafts of glory as it strikes our sensibility … I have tried to make every pleasure into a channel of adoration. I don’t mean simply by giving thanks for it. One must of course give thanks, but I meant something different … Gratitude exclaims, very properly, “How good of God to give me this.” Adoration says, “What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations [I had to look this word up!] are like this!” One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun … If this is Hedonism, it is also a somewhat arduous discipline. But it is worth some labour.”
It is worth some labour indeed! How different will this Thanksgiving be if you set about to make your mind “run back up the sunbeam to the sun”? The question isn’t so much, “what are you thankful for?” but “who are you thankful to?” What is he like? What kind of God must he be to give gifts such as these!
I hope your Thanksgiving is full of giving thanks… and of adoration.