In the movie Shenandoah, James Stewart plays farmer Charlie Anderson. In one scene the family is gathered at the dining room table and Charlie offers grace before they eat.
Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it, and harvest it. We cook the harvest. It wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t be eating it if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you Lord just the same for the food we’re about to eat, amen. (credit)
Charlie Anderson may have thought the Lord was getting a bit too much credit for the meal before them; but Martha, his wife, wanted the children raised as “good Christians.” He was doing his part . . . and maybe more. While Charlie’s faith was not as publicly demonstrated as Martha’s, it was visible in the way he lived, the love he had for his family, and his ethics. Charlie’s prayer that day may have come at the end of a long frustrating day, week, or year; but, in spite of the frustration seen in his face and heard in his voice, he prayed truth. In the end, no matter how much we do ourselves, the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe come from the Lord.
If there is any good to the economic turndown through which we’ve been going, it may be that it has forced us to recognize that our fortunes are not as self-made as we thought. Life is precarious, sometimes harsh, and often unfair. Good men and women can do all things right and still end up jobless and facing need they never imagined. When cable TV, internet connections, and smart phones can no longer be afforded, can we still give thanks?
Well, a lot depends on what matters. Too much of what elicits thanksgiving from us is the stuff with which we surround ourselves, and under which we often end up submerged. Am I the man I am because I sit in a nice leather desk chair clicking away on a fine laptop computer while surrounded by my books I’ve accumulated over a lifetime? If I’m not careful, I may be; but I am careful . . . more careful today than in the past.
Today I know that I am the man I am because my true identity flows from the One to whom I have pledged my life. Come what may, I am the Lord’s. I am the man I am because of the parents who birthed me and guided me to believe in the goodness of God and his all-encompassing love. I am the man I am because of the people of a tiny rural church in Tallapoosa, Missouri, who nurtured my young faith. I am the man I am because of the woman with whom I have shared the past 41+ years. I am the man I am because of the church that has shared an amazing faith journey with me for the more than 31 years. I am not self-made. I am who I am because of God and the blessing of riches—the people—with which he has wrapped me.
Thank you, Lord.