Sunday, November 25, 2012
Thanksgiving: When Styrofoam Beats China
It was a beautiful Thanksgiving this past Thursday. Twenty six sterling souls found spots, with six more filing in for Hannah’s cheesecake, Kate’s inimitable pies, Susan’s pumpkin made from, well, actual pumpkin, and other desserts brought by other beloveds. This however, was not a Martha Stewart Thanksgiving. And though it was far more comfortable and bountiful than that first Pilgrim feast, it resembled the bedraggled wonder of that celebration in spirit more than the polish of a Hallmark card by a turkey trot mile.
Each person, this hostess first and foremost, came to dinner with their own brand of brokenness. Most of us, blessed beyond any of our mortal powers to get a grip on, gave thanks either quietly or out loud for this: the unreserved, undeserved mercy we have consumed from the table of a generous God. And those that didn’t, or couldn’t, were loved just the same while we wait for the great revelation.
Our WW2 pilot with his oxygen mask, now on hospice, smiled a toothless grace. Our dear friend, finding her way after a difficult move and relational upheaval, shines nonetheless. A Vietnam double purple -heart war hero still weeps over the death of his dog, 10 years his only companion. Children of divorce, children fighting depression, children climbing a mountain of unjust suffering…all these belie the famous Norman Rockwell painting, but not the reality of those sturdy Mayflower pilgrims.
This year I relaxed and enjoyed the rugged beauty of our ragtag band of grateful hearts. I worked hard, but never felt stressed. I burned my fingers, didn’t mash the carrots enough, and had lumps in my gravy, but I delighted in the bent moments. Author of “The Message” paraphrase of the Bible, the brilliant Eugene Peterson, wrote a book called “Christ Plays in a Thousand Places”. I found Jesus there in the midst of a noisy, messy, heartbreaking, hilarious, troubled, perfectly imperfect gathering of ones He so loves. I left behind Martha’s china and opted for Styrofoam plates and plastic cups. There was no gourmet, but there was a horn of plenty of real love and a full portion of wild laughter. Like those aliens of 1620, we patched together a banquet of thanks on the rocky shores of trials and yet unanswered prayers. My sore feet were no match for my heart, wrapped in the luxurious comfort of joy. Surely the Lord is Good. As Ann Voskamp so aptly put it:
“God is good” is not a stale one-liner when all’s happy but a saving lifeline when all’s hard.”
So three years after a horrific car accident nearly killing husband and daughter, and almost a year since I thought I might never smile again, I find the potent medicine of thanks, and I stand on the shoulders of sea-crossers from ages past. None of the pilgrims from my table have smooth travels, behind or before them. But they have this; an unyielding Grace from a Sovereign God. The finest food, the most costly silverware, the loveliest centerpiece, all the treasures of this passing present are rubbish in comparison.
You, my friends, walking this unpredictable pilgrim road with me, take the tonic of thanks in the midst of your war against cynicism, despair and unbelief. Be strong, and of good cheer! This world is not our home, we’re only passing through. Surely we are strangers here. With tenacious kindness and unshakable faith…and not an ounce of judgment, let’s take as many people home with us as will come.
Your grateful friend on the pilgrim road,