Happy Thanksgiving! Let’s just get this out of the way: I have some complaints. This is not the year I thought it was going to be, and I’m feeling a lot of emotions, and probably third from the bottom is gratitude. In fact, I posted last week that technically if we all lie down on the ground the earth will spin faster and 2020 would end sooner. I want to feel gratitude, but my heart just hasn’t been there with so many other things on my mind.
For many, 2020 has felt a lot like wandering in the wilderness….maybe even forty years’ worth of wandering. When the Israelites’ wandering came to an end, God had finally brought them to the edge of the promised land. As they looked out on the land they were about to enter, God reminded them of everywhere they’d been the previous forty years. The inclination is to look back on the wilderness with contempt–that was awful, I hated it, we’d have been better off as slaves. Let’s never do that again.
But God’s reminder isn’t that. Instead, it’s “Remember how I fed you with Manna? Do you remember how your clothes didn’t wear out and your feet didn’t swell? Do you remember how I led you through that arid wasteland with snakes and scorpions? Remember how I made water flow from a rock? (Deuteronomy 8, paraphrased).
Perspective changes everything. Kind of like how the phrase “Hindsight is 2020” will have a completely different meaning next year. The appropriate response to the wilderness was humility and a realization of our utter and total dependence on God. Therefore, gratitude in a time of wilderness asks us to look back and find where God’s been at work. The second Friday Mobile Food Pantry in November served 341 families. Attendance that high hadn’t been seen in more than three years. More people are hungry in our community than have been for a long time, and yet Mission Central continues to find ways to feed people.
When I asked the Executive Director, Catherine Hollis, where they were finding the food to feed all of these people she simply shrugged her shoulders and said, “It really is loaves and fishes.” Every time the pantry gets low, the food they need shows up. That’s God at work through the community. The fact that the doors have remained open despite huge revenue losses at the thrift stores due to Covid-19 is also no small miracle. This church and the community have helped to close that financial gap in big ways. God at work. As you’re reading this, 800 families are sitting down to a Thanksgiving meal with a Turkey they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to get thanks to you (and the amazing folks who organized and made it possible). God at work. Even the fact that we were able to get that many turkeys this year was another miracle thanks to the diligence and persistence of one Steve Harding.
God is always at work, and some days more than others it takes a conscious effort to pause, reflect, and name it. I’m reminded that blessing has nothing to do with what we have or what we do. It’s a profound connection that binds us to God and to our neighbors in such a way that the relationship in and of itself is the blessing.
So for today, while I desire the promised land, I look back on where God has brought me so far and give thanks. It’s in remembering that we learn that God’s the one who’s done great things in us and we’re blessed to be a part of it. It’s in remembering that we learn that we aren’t the source of our own power and strength, and that we’re only here because God loves us, not because we brought ourselves to this place.
I hope your Thanksgiving Day is blessed. As you eat, please join me in remembering those who will not eat today; and those who are working–especially the doctors, nurses, EMT’s and other medical workers who sacrifice much to serve our communities.