S A LONGTIME NEW ENGLANDER, I’VE TAKEN MANY FRIENDS FROM across the United States and around the world to the numerous historical sites of my home region. Invariably, my guests always ask to see Plymouth Rock, the site on which, tradition says, the seventeenth-century English Separatists or Pilgrims set foot upon the shore where they would build their famous colony.
And invariably, after winding through the tourist-crowded streets along the seashore, when my friends first glimpse the famous boulder emblazoned with the 1620 arrival date, they say, “That’s it? That’s all? I was expecting something bigger, grander—something more like Gibraltar, or the white cliffs of Dover, or even the rocks off Portland Head Light.” That which looms large in the imagination—and in song and legend and story—underwhelms when it is actually encountered.
So it is with most of our thanksgivings, the holidays and the daily ones. We build them up to mythic proportions—all reverence and solemn remembrances—but discover that the heart of gratitude, which we thought we had, is all too easily displaced by irritations, slights, and great anxieties. The solid rock of godly gratitude, on which we meant to take our stand, grows smaller, meaner, lost among the stuff of unfilled hopes and pettiness. We find it easier to call to mind a year of squandered opportunities than to list—on paper and for real—the healings God has caused to happen.
Take inventory this year with some dear godly friend who will not let you linger discontented. Tell someone else the reasons you are thankful, and gratitudes will aggregate beneath your feet, a solid place to stand and build a dwelling place for God.
____________This article was published November 26, 2009.
Bill Knott is editor of the Adventist Review.