Seems to me there are two ways to handle the Thanksgiving feast this week without gaining a million pounds: there’s the less plan and the more plan. The less plan says less fat, fewer carbs, no fried food (hello, exploding turkey fryer!), and for Pete’s sake, no pie. The other plan says more. Give me a bigger glass of sparkling water with lemon, please. I’ll take seconds on the salad. How about another scoop of apples? Then, when I am cheerfully filling up, I’ll try a little of everything else. Just a taste, mind you. No need for a Pike’s Peak pile of potatoes and gravy, I’m already full!
I was thinking about this the other day, how every time I browse the internet I see a dozen new things I ought not eat, a dozen new ways I’m doing something wrong. There are articles on why I’m vacuuming wrong, why I’m exercising wrong, why I’m parenting wrong.
Lots of people live by the less plan. There’s a strict list of no-nos, what not to buy, how not to cook. And it’s not just less sugar, less butter, less wheat. It’s a don’t list that expands to cover practically every aspect of life. No mess, no disrespect, no waste, no intolerance, no pollution, no hate speech, no racism, no sexism, no immigration. Even more radical is John Lennon’s prescription: no greed? No possessions. No war? No countries. No hell? No religion, no heaven. Imagine — it’s easy if you try. It’s a radical vision — strip away anything negative from the world. Improvement by amputation. But what a narrow vision! It’s pessimistic, joyless. And to achieve it we must erect epic fences, for freedom allows the possibility of epic mistakes.
We see the vile things floating downstream, so we head upstream. At first we try a filter, but when that doesn’t work, we dam up the whole river. If there is a possibility that ugly things might be said, we mandate silence altogether. If one bad apple spoils the bunch, we outlaw fruit. But the less plan doesn’t make anything better, not really. It just cuts down on some of the bad. And it’s like that whack-a-mole game — no sooner do you whack one than another pops up. Our less-than virtues just expose more flaws, one after another.
Take tolerance. It is imperative in America that we tolerate one another, no matter our differences. Carefully we litigate less offensive language, less stigma, fewer restrictions. But what an anemic ethic! Imagine a Valentine that said, “To my sweetheart — I tolerate you.” On the inside it might add, “I tolerate your bad habits, your frequent offense, and your morning breath. Heart.” Love sees your tolerance and raises you a hundred-fold. It’s the more, please plan. Instead of not disrespecting, love appreciates. Instead of not taking, love gives. Love may speak a difficult truth, challenge a flimsy excuse, or encourage real change. But love patiently, kindly, believes the best, hopes for better, goes the distance.
What if we pursued a bighearted, generous approach to life — celebration and joy replacing caution and disapproval? That’s grace.
Undeserved, overflowing, above and beyond goodness. As opposed to religions of self-denial and the politics of squelching, grace looks for opportunities to surprise with abundance, to bless with lavishness.
What if we quit our silly diets that gradually restrict what we eat to, well, not much of anything, and instead gave thanks? What if we learned to delight in what is really good for us instead of outlawing all that might be bad?
What if we learned to be “more, please” parents? To replace, “Kid, don’t hit your brother,” with “let’s blow your brother away with generosity.” Instead of “hey, no ______,” we’d say, “hey, be courageous, be kind, don’t settle for less than awesome.” What if we replaced skimpy tolerance in our homes with love, rich and full?
And what if we prayed “more, please” prayers? Not couching our requests in bite-sized pieces, the easier for God to feebly answer, but the upping the ante every time? To say, “God, I was going to pray X, but you are an infinite God. Help me to dream bigger. Help me to ask for X2.” Because ultimately that seems to be the root of our problem. We serve too small a God, too untrustworthy. How can we forgive when He might not uphold justice? How can we extend freedom when He might allow anarchy? How can we accept good gifts when there might be bad repercussions?
Mark Batterson writes that we must pray bigger, bolder prayers, we must worship a bigger, bolder God. If I continually whittle my prayers down to the size of what I think I can reasonably accomplish, I forfeit the wonder of seeing God do the impossible. Why settle for a less-than life? Batterson says, “When imagination is sacrificed on the altar of logic, God is robbed of the glory that rightfully belongs to Him. In fact, the death of a dream is often a subtle form of idolatry. We lose faith in the God who gave us the big dream and settle for a small dream that we can accomplish without his help.”
God asks us to take the leap, dream big, relish life, laugh more, and give thanks. Maybe this Thanksgiving we can make a step in that direction. Pass the pie.