How easy is it for hope to be extinguished? We try to understand what's going on while someone stands over the top of us, looking down at us. We're like a deer stunned by the glare of oncoming headlights. Nobody knows how this feeling of hopelessness nauseates us. We regret accepting the invitation. Our thoughts weight heavy on the tongue. It's that old familiar feeling again. Another turn at the annual game of Thanksgiving with the family.
Thanksgiving is about going home, reconnecting with family, false expectations, and roles played. We've trained for it our whole life. But, we'd like nothing more than to have the whole thing get a hard reset. A different home. Different connections. The truth. No more role-playing. We even pray for it during the saying of grace.
We want something more meaningful. We hunger for it. Something different. We want to say something, even if it starts an argument. At least that's a change of pace from the traditional small talk and safe, sanitized nostalgia. But we don't speak up, even when another spoonful of cranberry sauce is dumped onto our plate (we've always hated cranberry sauce, but nobody listens). So we smile, pretend we enjoy the cranberry sauce that's by now encroached on the cheesy mashed potatoes and threatens to despoil the dinner roll.
This is the reality of Thanksgiving for many, many people. The day is one part cold war and one part dark comedy. For them, Thanksgiving dinner is truly a case of "fools rush in where angels fear to tread." It's a day of carnage, blue skies, and stumbling back and forth between regret and hope.
But our families are wounded, just as much or more than we are, on all sides. Some still live for the fight while some have surrendered their hopes to regret and resentment. There are wisdom and a lot of foolishness in their talk. It's ironic in a sense because we recognize ourselves in them. We pray for a hard reset because we see ourselves reflected back at us in their faces. That's why we yearn for change while being addicted to what's certain.
It's not just family that does this to us. It's our next-door neighbor, the garbage man, our child's teacher. It's a politician on the television, the homeless woman who lives next to the path where we jog every morning. It's our pastor, oncologist, and spouse. God gives them all to us, to serve as a mirror that shows us the truth about ourselves. It's just that at Thanksgiving, surrounded by people who've known us since we were in diapers, that we feel most naked. And why not? We're never more naked than when we're in front of family.
Thanksgiving is a contentious time for many, many people because it stirs up thoughts and feelings we'd rather were left dormant. We don't like being reminded we're someone's "little boy," especially when we're a parent ourselves. We resent someone looking down on us, spooning great gobs of sauce onto our plate, ignoring our protestations that "Grandma, I've told you, I don't like cranberry sauce." These are the conversations that must happen as we face our humanity; our sinful, ruined humanity.
This is the weight of God's glory. God's creatures gathered around God's succulent creation, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb so that today, and maybe again at Christmas, they can engage in their annual tragi-comic war. A dinner that's one part cold war and one part dark comedy. A blood-drenched conflict where there are no winners or losers only baptized sinners doing what baptized sinners always do: loving and serving each other as God has made and redeemed us to do.
Is it pretty? No. Is it praiseworthy? Only to the eyes of faith. Do we give thanks to the Lord always for this day? Sometimes, after the table is cleared, the garbage is taken out, everyone has left, and we're tucked nice and warm in our beds. Will we do it again next year? Absolutely! And why wouldn't we? We love each other because God "loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."
Thanksgiving isn't a time for perfect families to get together for a perfect meal. It's the day set aside for tragi-comic sinners to come together and give thanks for the deliciousness of God's grace in the good news of Jesus Christ and how He makes us groan with the weight of His glory as we push away from the table, unable to eat another bite of His succulent creation.