It's hard to know what to say on a day like this one. One of the things that I have always desired for this space is that it would be real, whatever that looks like. We cannot tolerate the cheap sort of faith that always tries to whitewash over our very real human experience. While we know that God's truth is real and vital and lifegiving, we are still beings living a journey of death (for the time being), and a real faith has to find the balance in that. It just has to.
And it seems so easy to rattle off things in our lives that we know we're supposed to be thankful for. All of the beautiful, lovely, shiny things in our lives that on any other day, any other day, we love so dearly. But this day...this day is hard.
We want to say that it's hard because it's not going to be filled with all of the things that we normally fill it with. This day is not going to look like any other Thanksgiving that we've ever had. We want to say that it's hard because we're somehow mourning it, and of course we are. But what really makes this day so hard, I think, is not so much that it's going to be different.
It's that this day, this day that has been so rock-solid in our personal histories, this day that has been so consistent in our experience...it feels so fragile this year.
It feels like this day is hanging on a fraying thread, as we're torn between what our hearts desire. We desire the intimacy and connection and fellowship that we've been longing for for so long, and yet, it is tempered by our equally strong desire to love one another well, and this year, that means protecting one another. We want to be with our loved ones, but we want to have them for more than this day. Today may feel...totally fine, and yet, we know that if we get today wrong, it can all change in a matter of a few days.
Today, there will be empty seats at tables where there was never a chance to say goodbye. Today, there will be families eating turkey together, but from different birds. Today, there will be some who will say they are not scared, but they will still hold their breath for the next two weeks, hoping they weren't wrong. There will be little children knocking on doors and waving at grandparents through windows, and there will be young couples making their own meal for the first time this year. There will be Zoom calls and Skypes, all that hang on an digital infrastructure that has never been tested with a connectivity like it's going to see today. Some of our Thanksgiving fellowships, like it or not, are going to be buffering.
To be honest with you, it feels like probably all of them are.
Thankfulness - authentic, soul-deep thankfulness - just feels so hard this year.
And yet...and yet, we are so good at feeling true thankfulness for the fragile. We are. It's a cool breeze on a warm day, a wisp of wind that is here in a moment and then gone. We're thankful for this, even though it is so fleeting, in a way that we would never be thankful for a sustained wind. It's a single flower in a field of weeds. Our eyes go straight to it, and we cannot help but notice its beauty, even as we realize that it is being choked out by everything around it. It's the sound of the church bells in the stillness of a Sunday. So fragile, and yet, so beautiful. It has always been the fragile things in our lives that seem to drive the deepest into our hearts. It has always been the fragile things that somehow make us most thankful for them.
Which is why I think this is a Thanksgiving that we will find a way to be thankful for. Once we settle into the strangeness of it all, once we embrace the fragility of it, once we let ourselves take hold of what seems so untouchable, I think we're going to find that the delicate nature of this Thanksgiving is going to give us a whole new view on things. I think this year, unlike any other, we're going to discover true thankfulness. I think that miles, cities, states apart, we're going to figure out how to love one another like we haven't in a long time. I think this Thanksgiving is going to bring us to tender tears as we realize the depth of our connectedness, even in a moment when we don't seem to have it. We'll find it anyway. And it will teach us something.
Because yes, this year feels so fragile. I get it. Trust me, I get it.
And yet, we are so good at feeling true thankfulness for the fragile.