Happy American Thanksgiving! Do you want to knock the “happy” out of that sentence? I have to admit it’s hard work to feel the “happy” even as I smell pumpkin bread in the oven. This isn’t the day any of us would have envisioned way back in January or even in May or June …
Last week I referenced the narrative in Luke’s telling of the Gospel story that has some good intentioned folks telling Jesus that they needed to first get things “in order” so that they could follow him. Jesus pointed out to them that they had it backwards. It is as we follow Jesus that all of the routines, events, and happenings of our life are finally put in proper order; we can’t do it the other way around.
So many of us are lamenting that Thanksgiving this year isn’t what it has been in the past. We have had so much loss this year and lamenting is a healthy and necessary part of the grief process. So, say out loud those things about Thanksgiving that you miss the most, cry if you need to (I have), shake your fists and yell why (done that, too), eat a huge bowl of fresh-made mashed potatoes with lots of butter, crisp crumbled bacon, and cheddar cheese (I refuse to respond on the grounds I might incriminate myself).
And then we ask the question that helps us move through lamenting to continue on our journey of following Jesus: in the circumstances in which we find ourselves, how can we love as Jesus loves?
And, yes, I believe that gratitude is a necessary part of love – loving God, our neighbor, and ourselves.
One way we express our love for God is to give thanks for what we have. One way we express our love for our neighbor is to value them enough to look out for them in every way possible. One way we express our love for ourselves is to take proper care of our whole being – body, mind, and soul.
I am so very thankful for the people I am most sad about not being with. And this year, I am expressing my thankfulness and love for them by not being with them. Physical distancing is a way I can keep all of our risk of contracting COVID to a minimum. It won’t be forever and I’m so very grateful to know that. I’d much rather give up being with them now and be able to gather with them in a few months time so I will not risk their health or death to insist on getting what I want right now.
I’m grateful for the scientists and doctors and study volunteers that have worked so hard on a vaccine so that it will be sooner rather than later that we can be together. (Here’s a good article for understanding the process: https://biologos.org/post/i-am-in-a-covid-vaccine-trial-my-take-on-the-testing-experience)
I’m grateful for the technology that allows me to call and text and video chat and email with folks most any time I want to.
I’m grateful we have a comfortable home to physical distance in and the sewing skills and creativity to make masks with my existing craft supply stash (perhaps my husband will be grateful for my stash now, too?) so we can be safe when we must go to public places. I’m grateful for stores and restaurants who adapted to curbside transactions as a way to keep us all, including their employees, a little safer.
I’m especially grateful that I’ve learned that by focusing on what I have, I find I always have enough. I’m grateful I’ve learned that generosity comes from being grateful, that abundance isn’t about excess, and that God provides what we need to be who God calls and created us to be.
I am grateful I know (even if I forget from time to time) that I am infinitely valuable to God (and so are you) and that it is God’s abundant love for me (and you) that equips me (and you) to abundantly love others and myself.
I am grateful I have learned to have my thanks in proper order (again, not a typo), grateful for what I have instead of thinking that getting what I want will equip me to give thanks.
Being grateful and giving thanks doesn’t deny our grief; it is a necessary part of the process; it helps our wounds heal; it makes us more resilient; it enables us to find joy so that we aren’t stuck in the past, blinded to the future, missing out on life now.
Our days and routines and holidays aren’t what they were. Together, let’s follow Jesus and allow God’s Way of Love to set things in proper order for us. Find Joy in giving Thanks. I’m grateful you are journeying with me.