thanksgiving in a dark world

Posted: November 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and I’ve been more excited about it this year even than usual.  Some years I have been overwhelmed and depressed by its arrival, focused on my inability to meet the expectations of others, or the impending failure of the meeting of my own expectations, but this is not one of those years.  This year I’m looking forward to the cooking part, and the family part, and most importantly, the laser focus on gratitude.  I’ve felt myself approaching the holiday with a child’s heart this year, open and willing to be excited.  All this despite the fact that on the official day, G will be working and I’ve got plans at home on my own.

My light heart is a bit of a surprise to me, when I look at things objectively.  After all, the world is no less dark this year than it has been in past years.

The national conversation about the election is so awful that I find myself using every means to go around it and just not hear it at all, where possible.

The back-and-forth about the plight of the Syrian refugees is so horrifying that I have stopped wondering how the holocaust happened, as I feel like I’m witnessing the approach of the next round of it in human history.

The horror of recent events in France still echoes in our ears, and we don’t even want to hear about the many other places where similar atrocities have taken place among people who are less like us, and thus somehow less deserving of our grief on their behalf.

The things being said and done regarding racial tensions internally here in the U.S. seem to reveal that we are unable as a culture to move toward reconciliation really at all.

A friend shared recently with me that this holiday is always hard for her, because she doesn’t feel like her family lives up to the gracious and loving traditions that other families seem to share.  I was quick to point out to her that the notion that everybody else’s family is wonderfully functional is, for the most part, an illusion.  A lifetime of swapping family stories with friends and coworkers has given me perfect clarity on this point – there is an ugly underbelly, when it comes down to most families.  A hurtful relative, a split between sections of the family, a set of old stories about wrongs that were never really righted, but only brushed under the rug.  Most folks, if pressed, can tell a story from family history that is so messed up that if it were written as part of a fictional story, those editing would say you might have gone too far on this one, and need to tone it down a little bit.

We can get stuck, listening to the loud and terrible national and world conversations as the media chooses to report them.

We can despair, focusing on the failure of our closest loved ones to act like stars in a Hallmark special.

We can fall into a funk, looking inward, listening to the awful internal racket, and noticing our own continual failure to be what we think others are as we measure their exterior appearance.

That’s where faith is my rescuer.  Not “stuff nice church people say” faith.  Not platitudes.  Not a focus on being good people.  Not a refusal to see that ugly underbelly – no pollyanna sunshine bullsh*t here.

It’s about looking at scripture and seeing the same awful stories there.  Entire cultures hating and destroying one another.  The using and abusing of fellow human beings.  Family insanity.  Shady behaviors and insidious, dark motivations.  If you really know your Bible, you can’t honestly pretend that anything going on today is new or different.  All this crap from today?  It’s in there.

And – more importantly – in the midst of it all, there is the God of all the universe.  Talking to murderers.  Working with liars.  Reaching for idiots. Redeeming cheaters.  Making a way for broken, dysfunctional, selfish a**holes to be with Him.

There is only one perfect hero in scripture, and that is Jesus Christ.  Everyone else in there – even the best of the best – is just another messed up human being, getting it wrong as much as they are getting it right.

Just like those people I’ve been “unfollowing” recently on Facebook, as I couldn’t take one more hateful post from them.

Just like that relative you’re bracing yourself to deal with on Thursday at the family gathering.

Just like the politician I love to hate.  And just like my favorite politician – the one you love to hate.

Just like the person who let you down, who left you out, who bullied you, who walked away and left your life empty.

Just like me in my passages of making choices that would have hard consequences for others, echoing down through years upon years.

Just like you in that one story, the one you never tell, the one you hope people never know about you, because you’re sure they could never see you the same again if they knew.

The people in the Bible are no different from our today stories.  The plight of humanity is that we are broken, selfish, self-centered, confused folk with mixed motives.

The God of the Bible is able to see beyond all that.  Is able to bring beauty in the midst of all that.  Works out His purposes in spite of all that.  Orchestrates freedom in the face of all that.

He did it for them.  He does it for me.  He’ll do it for you.

Reason enough for a light heart this Thanksgiving, despite the gruesome details.

He is reason enough.

May your heart be childlike in its lightness, this holiday season…no matter what the other details may be.

  1. Laurie says:

    WOW!! In years with the profound truth of seeing myself in your words and the profound truth of the One still reaching for jackholes like me to rescue and redeem. That is Thanksgiving every. Single. Minute.


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