Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanks for what?

This Thanksgiving we tried a new tradition.  Our friends Jeff and Tara created a practice where everyone goes around the table and shares their past year's worst thing.  Each sharing is followed by everyone raising their glass and saying, "Praise God!"  (to read Tara's fuller explanation, read here)

I wanted to try their ritual because I feel like I'm raising 3 entitled brats, kids who think there's no God who loves them or justice in the world because they don't own a summer home, the right clothing or any of a whole bunch of other accoutrements.

I realize much, if not all of this, is our fault--when you choose to live in a wealthy suburb where it feels like the vast majority of folks earn more or own more (even if that might not be true)--how can we not expect our kids to grow up feeling this way?

We hoped that exposing them to a month in China would help, but it didn't.  They still feel like we're big meanies who won't give them what they think they need.

It seems to me that a damaging consequence of privilege is feeling like God has abandoned us or no longer exists if we don't get what we want or life doesn't go the way we think it should.  So I wanted to implement a mini-course in training our children to praise God in all circumstances.

I didn't know how my suggestion would go over with my parents and sister's family.  At first, they were open, but when I explained it further, my sister said, "You want us say 'Praise God! My father-in-law died???"

When you put it that way, it doesn't sound so good, does it?

At my church, there's a stream of folks who would say that, who believe that we should praise God FOR everything, good or evil.

I'm still not there.  So far, I can't bring myself to praise God for my friends' cancers or broken marriages or my inability to control my anger or my tongue.

"We're not praising God FOR his death," I said, "We're praising God IN his death.  Because God tells us to praise IN ALL circumstances."

So we gave it a try.  We praised God IN:

  • death and mourning
  • poor health
  • bad math grades
  • unreconciled relationships
  • disappointed dreams
  • broken world affairs
  • not achieving what we hoped to achieve
We ranged in age from 7 to 79.  Everyone had something to say.  And even though it felt bad at first to shout "Praise God!" with lifted glass to the tragedy of my brother-in-law's Dad's death, it still felt right to somehow affirm that God is good in the midst of that.

My nephew suggested that we go around after the sad round with the best thing that happened.  So we did that too.  And it was striking that even though there were a bunch of personal successes among us, for the parents in the room, our best moments came in seeing our kids thriving.  

So even if my kids are entitled, even if they're ungrateful, even if I want to kill certain ones like I did last night when there was a meltdown about going to bed AFTER I let everyone watch Captain America against my better judgment. . .

Praise God! 

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