When I was a child my family annually attended the Christian Science Thanksgiving church service on Thanksgiving morning. During this service, a time is provided to give gratitude for the past year’s bounty, protection, spiritual provisions, and guidance received from God – good. It is a touching service, one that moves the heart deeply and soberly. Hardly a service went by when I didn’t look up at my dad and see tears of gratitude in his eyes.
Such heartfelt thanks begins with gratitude to God. We can be grateful for all of the spiritual provisions that God bestows, such as peace, joy, and deep-felt compassion. The awareness of these spiritual provisions and our gratitude for them isn’t a mere traditional act, but a prayer that lifts our thought to the source of all goodness: God. Gratitude is an awareness of His presence and power in our lives. It understands God as ever caring for His creation – everyone, at all times. While words of gratitude are necessary and meaningful, our gratitude cannot remain in words. It has to extend to actions. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, writes, “Gratitude is much more than a verbal expression of thanks. Action expresses more gratitude than speech” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 3).
How can our gratitude become more than a verbal expression of thanks? When we express our desire to do good by loving God and our neighbor. By loving, we are following the commands and teachings of Christ Jesus (see Matthew 22:37-39). How is it that we can demonstrate these teachings? Mrs. Eddy elucidates how we can express our love for God more when she writes, “What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds” (Science and Health, p. 4).
Putting this fervent, heartfelt prayer into practice – cultivating in ourselves true patience, meekness, and love, and doing the good deeds that naturally follow from this spiritual growth – leads us more and more into a better understanding of God. Expressing these God-given qualities lifts our thought away from hatred and anger to a more spiritual awareness of our God-given identity as His image – and hatred and anger fall away. Showing our thanks in loving thoughts and actions is the highest form of gratitude we can express in our daily lives.
Gratitude on Thanksgiving Day will certainly include words, but it also includes our expression of Godlike qualities – God’s spiritual provisions for us. As we pause on this day to share our gratitude, to contemplate God’s action in our lives, to gather the harvest of being followers of Christ Jesus, we, too, like my dad, may have tears of gratitude on Thanksgiving morning for all the blessings bestowed on us by our heavenly Father-Mother, blessings that come into our lives through answered prayer.