by Tony Tench
Enjoying the pace of retirement from teaching, and getting in all the time possible to be an encouragement to Erin and be with our grand-girl and grand-boy (yes, ain’t life grand!), Janet was recently down in Greenwood, SC. She and Erin, our daughter, were parked in line to pick up Mattie from school. When Mattie was led out of her room by her teacher, not knowing Janet was going to be there, she exclaimed, “MiMommy, that’s my MiMommy!” This little girl gets so excited about life’s simplest and most cherished experiences!
Once on the road, and in full “conversation mode” — this little girl can tell a story all day long — she announced the plan for Thanksgiving week at school. “Mommy,” she said, “we’re going to have a Thanksgiving FEAST!!!!!” “Whoa,” said Erin, “that will be so much FUN!” “Yes,” answered little Golden Feather, wearing the paper headband they had made in class to remember the Native Americans who helped those early Pilgrims to survive. And then she added, “Mommy….. what’s a feast?”
Mattie was so pumped with joy in preparation for the Thanksgiving celebration EVEN THOUGH she did not understand exactly what was about to happen. She simply knew something special was on the horizon.
And there we have arrived at the heart of genuine “thanksgiving”: TRUST in the promise of God’s presence to make something special from the unknown and can’t-be-anticipated days in which we live! Something special is on the horizon!
Our lives are filled with days that bring…
- Struggle — It was true of those Separatists who landed at Plymouth Rock seeking religious liberty in the wake of persecution at home.
- Hardship — Yep, those Pilgrims met harsh winters and the death of their peers at too rapid a pace.
- Discouragement — Those European immigrants to the new world had to figure out how to deal with the conditions of a “New England” winter.
- Disillusionment — A cherished relationship between European settlers and Native Americans that we celebrate from the Plymouth experience of 1620-1621 soon devolved in the region, by 1637 and the massacre at Fort Mystic, into a bloody struggle for power and land, as well as an ignorance of the image of God in which fellow human beings are created.
Fast forward to the 21st century and there is simply no getting away from the same harsh realities of life…
- Struggle — With religious liberty well established in our American experience, we face a day where greater numbers of folks ignore the significance of worshipping the one who authors this liberty.
- Hardship — Families and couples feel the pressures of life and sometimes flounder to find their way through.
- Discouragement — Yes, as our African friends put it, “Mavuto saona nkhope!” “Trouble doesn’t look at the face” to see who you are and whether you deserve its untimely appearance — it just comes to us all!
- Disillusionment– We live in a day in which we should have already learned the value of cherishing relationships with our neighbors and yet we live divided behind such harshly drawn lines.
Our Father — who sent Jesus into the fray of our sin and struggle to take it all on himself, to receive the full force of all the bad that this world can muster, and then to be raised as victor over it all — this is the Father in whom we can TRUST! And, when we trust in the promise of God’s presence to make something special from the unknown and can’t-be-anticipated days in which we live then we can count on a FEAST of his grace:
- Strength and Provision for the struggle that is on us: “The Lord is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.” Psalm 46:1
- Surety of Foundation from which we will not be shaken: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2
- Joy in the journey because he is our constant presence: “Surely you have granted him unending blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence.” Psalm 21:6
- Love that draws us back to renewed relationships for the pilgrimage before us: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8
So, once again, a child leads us. Mattie was right to celebrate the “feast” of God’s grace even if she didn’t know what a “feast” was! She was trusting that something special was on the horizon. And that’s why we can be thankful!