Everyone knew this popular cliché that I learned in my native Ghana. It can be translated into this: Everyone has been a child before, but not everyone has been an adult before.
Yes, we have all been children before. As old as you may be, you were once a child who has grown to become an adult.
When I once worked at Marshalls in Atlanta, I saw this child scream and throw temper tantrums because his mother wouldn’t buy him a toy that he wanted. He screamed and screamed until his mother, out of the sheer embarrassment that the son was causing her, got him the toy. When I got the chance to talk to the mother, I told her a story about the piglet who asked the mother this question: “Mother, why is your mouth so big?”
The mother’s response to the piglet was simply this: “Don’t worry, when you grow, you will come to understand why my mouth is so big.”
Children often believe that there are no limits. They believe that they can do whatever they want, or that they can get whatever they want. All they have to do is throw temper tantrums, and just like that, they get what they want.
I say this to make the point that children are always receiving. Children are always at the receiving end of gifts. It doesn’t matter whether they are throwing temper tantrums or not. Children always receive and hardly give.
Children don’t give because they do not have anything to give. We believe, as parents, that our children have nothing to give us back apart from their little Thank Yous. Although we know that children really don’t have anything to give us in return for all that we give to them, we don’t ever stop giving them things, and they don’t ever stop receiving things from us and from loved ones.
As adults and parents, whenever we feel that children are losing their sense of gratitude when receiving a gift, we attempt to teach them and reinforce the importance of gratitude in life with these words: “And what do you say?” This is to make the point that we expect their kind ‘Thank Yous’ in return, and nothing more.
I haven’t been an adult before, but I was once a child - a child who only knew how to receive and had to be reminded or invited to say "thank you" before doing so.
But as old as you and I may be, we are still children. We are children of God. We are children who continue to receive and receive from God. The interesting thing is that our hands are always stretched out to receive God’s grace, the abundant grace which is realized in our lives, in our ability to work, the healing that comes our way, the comfort that God gives to us, God’s provision for our children and the sustaining presence of God in times when life takes a different turn.
All through our lives, we receive God’s perfect gift. James reminds us that Every good and perfect gift is from above.
We also throw temper tantrums at God. We act like that child at Marshalls whenever we find ourselves in situations where we believe we deserve any toy that we want, our loved ones deserve any toy they want, and that all God has to do is give us or our loved ones what we want. More often than not, we get the toy we want, and our loved ones do, as well.
In fact, we could never actually count the number of toys we have received from God. We surely have received more than we deserve.
The tragedy here is that we tend to forget where our blessings come from, and so we hesitate to express our gratitude to God. We even grumble at expressing gratitude because we believe that we are deserving of who we are, where we are, what we have become, and all that we have. And just like the way you invite a child with the words “And what do you say?” we also have to be reminded of those same words. And when we hear them, we begrudgingly mutter the words, "Thank you."
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. Many are our friends who would be alone. Many are our friends who would travel far and near to be with family. I give thanks to God for all of you. I also give thanks to God for the Pilgrims who found it worthy of their time, experience, and faith to invite their Native American neighbors to join them in giving thanks to the Most High God from whom we receive every perfect gift - especially the gift of all our lives.
I am sure you have heard this cliché of a question before: what are you thankful for? If you can find something, anything in your life for which you are thankful, have you said thank you? Have you had the courage and conviction, like the Pilgrims, to say "thank you" to God, the source of all our being, for the grace, favor, and mercy you have received?
Let not your ego get in your way.
Let not the child within you hold sway over your thoughts and actions, leading you to throw temper tantrums.
Let not the way you look at yourself become a stumbling block to a real and genuine relationship with God.
Be bold with your thanksgiving, be bold.
On this Thanksgiving Day, I invite you to continually look at yourself as the child of God - one whose hand is always stretched out to receive. I invite you to continually look at others as children of God who have also stretched out their hands to receive.
We all stretch out our hands because we believe that God always gives and gives and never grows tired of giving. We stretch out our hands because we know God gives to us because we are God’s children.
For all of God’s gracious gifts and many more, may we always find within ourselves more than enough reason to always give thanks - to live thankfully.
Happy Thanksgiving, my beloved!