We share around the table as we do every year, telling what we are thankful for over dessert and coffee, from youngest to oldest. The cousins have grown up with this and their thanks giving has grown with them, from coached one-word answers to heartfelt sacrifices of praise. Someone throws out the prompt: tell something you have learned in the past year that you are thankful for. And the youngest one starts right out and quiets the room with her statement of faith…patience through pain and the ability to find joy, and the next one picks up the thread of finding strength to make hard choices and learning to labor in prayer.
Around the table the words fall thoughtful, sharing uprooting life-changes and struggles met with grace and provision, and others respond, come alongside, with words of encouragement. From youngest to oldest we lay out our thanks offerings from these faltering lips, and God’s faithfulness weaves a covering over this family, hushes our hearts; we worship around this feast of thanks giving. A hard year of life, an abundant year of grace– and isn’t that the way it should be on this day of remembrance, to look back into the wilderness ways we have walked and see the presence of God leading us through?
It was here the Israelites failed in their own desert wanderings…“Our fathers…did not remember the abundance of Your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.” (Psalm 106:7) It was the forgetting that was offensive, because how do you take life and breath and blessing from the hand of the Almighty and not think it a large enough gift to warrant trust and thankfulness? It was the First Sin all over again, in different colors, but in essence the same. “…they soon forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel…they had a wanton craving in the wilderness. and put God to the test in the desert…” (v.13-14) In the desert it is easy to feel alone under the weight of desperate need, but the Musician-King David knew, and Hagar knew, and Moses knew, and Elijah knew, and even Jesus knew– they knew that in the wilderness you can see God at work and hear His voice more clearly than anywhere else, when you pour out your heart to Him and listen hard, wait for Him to answer.
The youngest cousin has lined the walls of her room with the cries of her heart: “Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my pleas for mercy….Let me hear in the morning of Your steadfast love, for in You do I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul.” (Psalm 143:1,8) And she waits for Him to deliver her from debilitating pain, so she can return to the children of Honduras. But in the meantime she gives thanks for lessons learned, for patience and choosing joy, and that He hears her. This is the best Thanks Giving of all, this going around the table considering God’s wondrous works, remembering the abundance of His steadfast love in the desert times we have walked through, in the past year. “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 106:1)
“Giving thanks is only this: making the canyon of pain into a megaphone to proclaim the ultimate goodness of God.” Ann VosKamp
“Great is Your faithfulness, oh God.
You wrestle with the sinner’s heart;
You lead us by still waters and to mercy,
And nothing can keep us apart.
So remember Your people,
Remember Your children,
Remember Your promise, oh God…
Your grace is enough…Your grace is enough for me.” Chris Tomlin