Turkey. Pumpkin pie. Cranberry sauce. All the trappings of an American tradition, baked, stirred, and served up amidst a collection of family favorites. Is this Thanksgiving?
Don’t get me wrong. I love the holiday. But amidst the ritual replay of traditions, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the greater truth we are celebrating.
As I sprawled on my living room floor Thanksgiving morning, wrapped haphazardly in my bathrobe, hair a messy pile on my head, giving thanks was the last thing on my mind. I stared frustrated at the laptop screen, glancing repeatedly up at the flat screen TV mirroring my actions on the computer. I’d awakened early to help start breakfast and watch the parade. But now I didn’t notice the smell of hot monkey bread beginning to drift through the house. The only thing I could think about was the stupidity of NBC’s website. They said the parade would stream live. Well, where was the bloomin’ link?
It’s amazing how the little things in life can get to you. The traditions become weights, actions you must do or die. I was going to watch the parade. It was Thanksgiving. But the longer I scrambled from site to site, the clearer it was that I’d missed most of the parade. Finally stumbling onto a lame embedded video on NBC’s New York affiliate, I magnified the small window for my dad and siblings sitting behind me. Disgusted, I picked myself up and headed for the shower.
I’d like to say at that point I straightened-up, repented of my sour mood and thanked God for all He’d done for me this year. After all, that’s what happened. For a few hours.
But as the day wore on, my mind was pelted repeatedly with things I was not thankful for. Memories soured to bittersweet. Small splinters biting at the thought of them. Even the last two weeks had amounted to a string of days most of which I wanted to forget.
So I chopped veggies, smiled, laughed, and occasionally, smarted and stung. So much good from God. And so much bad from man.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 ESV)
But even the bad, with God, can be good. Each small scar reminded me of how God had brought me through, taught me something, and made me stronger. Each bad day had been a lesson, an opportunity to forgive, an opportunity to repent.
And so as I sat down with my family for Thanksgiving dinner, I was thankful. Thankful for the good times we’ve had this year, as well as for the bad. Thankful that God loved me enough to walk me through both. Thankful that compared to most people in the very big world, my troubles are very very small.
After dinner we watched a movie, and I skimmed my Google Reader. My eye’s caught on an entry in the Boundless Line, provocatively titled “Thanks for Nothing.” Author Lisa Anderson echoed my thoughts:
As Thanksgiving is upon us, I’ve naturally been thinking about thankfulness. Without a doubt, I have many things to be thankful for. But I started thinking about the things I don’t have. The things I’ve been denied. And I’m thankful for those, too… Failures, disappointments, losses – all things that seemed devastating at the time, but now go on my growing list of things to be thankful for.
Thanksgiving day had dawned stormy outside. The rain softened into snow and laced the trees and rooftops as the day grew older. As I snuggled on the living room futon in the evening, surrounded by family and reading words of encouragement, I was truly thankful. God is good all the time.
I was also getting hungry. How about some of that apple pie…
You can view the full Boundless Line article here.