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~ Thanksgiving is Forgetting We Exist ~

The greatest commandment, to love God with all our heart, strength, mind and body, requires a forgetfulness of self. In the rapture of love, we lose ourselves in the other. The self matters no longer.

Losing self-awareness is not only a spiritual experience. Some whose self-awareness is so painful induce a loss of it through abuse of drugs, alcohol and psychotropic medications. This is not all bad. Major surgery is a good time to lose self-awareness and anesthesia is a blessing! Some rid themselves of painful self-awareness by suicide or euthanasia. These ways are marked by sadness and defeat, not joy and transcendence.

Many vivid memories of forgetting I exist for a few moments come to mind. Among the greatest was watching my son being born. The world stood still and he was the focus of all awareness. I was witnessing an event that transcended even my awareness of being there. My internal response was, “Thank you, God!”

Another moment of self-forgetfulness occurred the first time I stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. My jaw literally dropped in astonishment and awe. On experiencing such exemplars of creation, many remark about insignificant they felt. My experience, however, was not that or anything about me, but rather forgetting I existed. My response, again, was, “Thank you, God!”

Many of us can think of moments when we received news so wonderful we forgot ourselves and fell into an ecstatic state of gratitude, much like King David casting off his royal robes and dancing unselfconsciously upon recovering the Ark of the Covenant.

Reveling in thankfulness is a heavenly experience and way of “denying self” joyfully rather than painfully. When pain is involved, we are quite aware of our self-denial.

Losing oneself in thankfulness, however, is losing self-consciousness and self-centeredness in deference to offering ourselves as a sacrifice of praise and thanks to God. It is painless and joyful. But the joy doesn’t revolve around us but is rather a participation in and a sharing of the joy of God about us, His beloved. It is His joy we feel, not ours. And I would much rather feel God’s joy than my own!

Both joy and trauma defined my past work as an emergency medical technician. To feel a person who was not breathing open his eyes in wakefulness gave me great joy. Not the joy of “doing a good job” in emergency care, but rather the joy of witnessing life claim back its own, of God’s Spirit saying, “Hello!” and truly not being conscious of myself but of the miracle of the resiliency of life, being in the presence of something so much greater than my puny sense of self.

“Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and then thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang:

‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
To receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
And honor and glory and praise!’

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:

‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
Be praise and honor and glory and power,
Forever and ever!’

The four living creatures said, Amen, and the elders fell down and worshiped.”
(Revelation 5:11-14, NIV.)

These angels, creatures, and elders are in obvious ecstasy! All of their self-consciousness is obviously consumed by their gratitude and praise of the One who transcends all, who is All in all. Now that is one great and wondrous Thanksgiving Day!

To say I look forward to that is an understatement. Meanwhile, as I wrote above, we can experience such moments here on earth. Those moments are treasures, compared to the pittance of eating until we are too full to move and watching the parades and football games, or seeing cute and historically inaccurate and politically correct reenactments of the Pilgrims and Native Americans having fun together by our school students. Thanksgiving is about having ourselves be consumed by our God as a living sacrifice of thanks to Him! And thus self-denial is a joy not a sacrifice, as Christ tried to explain to us in many ways, in many times, in the past and now through His Holy Spirit. The way to self-denial is abandonment in our thanksgiving.

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
~ Education, Research and Advocacy
   in the Christian Faith ~

Spiritual Resource Services  © November 26, 2004

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