Today I will stand around a bounteous table hand in hand with my family. Like the first pilgrims, we will gather as wayfarers, sojourners in this life, for a bit of respite and feasting along our individual caminos. If I could linger a while before our heads bow, I would like to look at each face, draw every contour, touch their eyes and cheeks like Grandma Bowen used to do in the years she was blind – trying to ascertain how we had grown and what our features were like now.
Each of us standing there in a circle is a testament to mercy, a totem pole of grace. Our collective history shakes me to the core, yet strengthens my feeble bones in the reminder that it is only by God’s grace that most of us are still standing here. Numerous cancers, heart attacks, bypass surgery, bicycle accidents, major eye issues, a missing colon, a pancreas that no longer produces insulin, a limp or two, a divorce, two murders and ongoing health and financial issues. All these things in some way, define who we are individually and as a family. Not because we are in any way exemplar for having endured such things, but because of how these things have shaped us and continue to do so.
From another perspective, as I look around the circle, I see artists, poets, actors, musicians, makers, teachers, mothers, fathers, pastors and entrepreneurs. The beauty that this family has crafted and continues to offer in the world is staggering. Each totem pole of grace is a thing of immeasurable beauty even with, and dare I say because of, its scars and mars.
This is what God does. Only He could take broken vessels and display His beauty in and through them. Yes, there has been repair. Yes there’s been incredible healing. But we are still a broken lot who can claim no hand in the beauty wrought. It is only grace.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Gratitude is not easy. Being thankful in all these things is not a flippant, God-is-good pat answer. It is hard work, heart work, to stand fully in your story as a pilgrim, scour the landscape for Beauty, and raise hands to heaven in thanks for all these things. I’m looking forward to doing this with my fellow pilgrims today.
Happy Thanksgiving to Pilgrims everywhere!