Learning gratitude from a fugitive

I have a suggestion for those of you who like to create controversy. Next time someone asks you to read something thankful from the Bible, like before you eat at Thanksgiving, say, “I have the perfect poem. David wrote this.”

Then read Psalm 35.

“Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; Fight against those who fight against me.”

If you are a fourteen-year-old like Aiden or Caleb, reading those words would serve as a provocation to their siblings: “Dad, I did not fight against him. Make him stop.”

“Let destruction come upon him unawares, and let the net which he hid catch himself. Into that very destruction let him fall.”

If you are a parent of young children, those words would make seven-year-olds (or seventy-year-olds) ask “You mean like Wile E. Coyote?” And the table would wander into discussions of cartoons, not gratitude.

“They repay me evil for good, to the bereavement of my soul, but as for me, when they were sick … I went about as though it were my friend or my brother. I bowed down in mourning, as one who sorrows for a mother.”

For the one struggling with betrayal and injustice, who tries to do good and gets mocked, these words are like vindication. Finally, someone else who understands the frustration of being nice to people who are not nice.

But you’re still not sure why this is a thanksgiving poem. It seems full of complaint and lament, calls for vengeance and vindication. It is. But seeded through the cries for deliverance are David’s promises of how he will respond.

“I will give you thanks in the great congregation,” David writes. “I will praise you among a might throng.”

It’s actually an honest thanksgiving prayer. For now, I’ll pray. When I get out, I’ll praise.

This is the third in a series of reflections on gratitude.

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About Jon Swanson

Social media chaplain. Author of "Lent For Non-Lent People" and "A Great Work: A Conversation With Nehemiah For People (Who Want To Be) Doing Great Works." Writer of 300wordsaday.com. I help people understand. Understand some of the Bible. Understand what Lent can be about. Understand what it means to follow.