When Thanksgiving & the Holidays Just Seem Hard
The Wednesday morning before turkey and pie and black Friday flyers, I wake up to this smothering of fog and this teen muttering it through the kitchen: “Whatever.”
And what do you say but that’s not quite the way to start off the day, and he shrugs his shoulders and slams the bathroom door behind him, and I get it.
It’s there on the mantle, this framed God-thunder, “Give Thanks.”
It’s no neon sign, more this painting in a quaint Shaker-style. There’s only two remaining Shakers now. I think about that.
Think about whether they’re still giving thanks and if this whole pilgrim thanksgiving thing, this whole holiday she-bang, isn’t a bit of quaint antiquated denial in a world that’s right busted and hemorraghing a mess straight out the side.
Because on the Tuesday, I sat with a mother who stood over a hole in the earth three weeks ago, and watched as they laid her son in soil and they just buried her baby in dirt and expected her to walk away.
I’m looking this mama in the eye and I want to claw the damp, clammy earth open with my very fingernails and who cares how many days Jesus stayed away from Bethany after Lazarus died — why does He not come here, here, and resurrect our cold joy?
A friend witnesses this fiendish luring and devouring of her child’s innocence and the nightmares jolt her awake in the dead of night and why does the laboring anguish over a child never stop?
And a man tells me that his parents were overseas missionaries when his little sister too died as a child, some seed that lodged in her throat, and he knows what my story’s like, and we weep for everything that feels stolen away. Then he tells me that just this summer his twenty-something sister went missing. And I shake my head no. The daughter of lifetime missionaries? Who have already buried one child?
Who doesn’t watch the news and howl? Who doesn’t breathe through wounds and grieve for what was or dreamed and isn’t? How do you sit around a table and bow your head in thanks when parts of this world and bits of you are somewhere crushed?
And I peel squash and there is God and yada, yada, yada.
1. to bemoan with this wringing of hands.
2. or to revere with an extending of hands.
And this too on the page of the Strong’s Concordance:
3. Yadah means to confess.
4. Yadah means to give thanks.
Yadah — the whisper of Psalms 92:1:
“It is a good thing to [yada] — give thanks — and sing praises to unto thy name, O most High.”
It is a good thing to yada: in the midst of the wringing of hands, to extend the hand.
It is a good thing to yada: hold out the hand — not as a fist to God, but in praise to God.
It is a good thing to yada: give thanks — to brazenly confess that God is wholly good though the world is horribly not.
You hear it — this scoffing yada, yada, yada — as if much and everywhere is banal, this aching meaninglessness that drones on and on.
And in the midst of genocides and suicides, the divorce and disease, the death and dark, we understand the yada all around us, the holding up of fists at God instead of extending the hand in thanks and we empathize with the unbeliever’s confusion, because it’s our own confusion, and in this struggle to be grateful to God for always and for everything, we pray with humble earnestness for the unbeliever: because before a Good God haven’t we all been been momentary unbelievers?
And yet there it is, and you hear it now, at the cusp of the feasting, the yada, yada, yada, that sings relentless and bold:
We won’t stop confessing He is good and we won’t stop thanking Him for grace and we won’t stop holding out our hands — and taking His hand. We won’t stop believing that “God is good” is not some trite quip for the good days but a radical defiant cry for the terrible days.
That “God is good” is not a stale one-liner when all’s happy but a saving lifeline when all’s hard.
And we will keep giving thanks, yada, yada, yada, because giving thanks is only this: making the canyon of pain into a megaphone to proclaim the ultimate goodness of God.
I’m holding the squash in hand. That’s what the mother had said standing there in her tsunami of grief: “I believe God is good. I believe that is all there really is.”
And every time I give thanks, I confess to the universe the goodness of God. I had touched her hand.
She had said it, her eyes so clear, like you could see straight into her, into all that remains.
The morning fog ebbs across harvested fields.
Thanksgiving in all things accepts the deep mystery of God through everything.
And there will be bowed heads around all the tables.
And there will be lights flickering brave to burn back the black, and there will be a believing in relentless redemption and a reaching out and around of all these hands, reaching out in this yada, yada, yada, this steady confessing of the goodness of God — come whatever.
And there are leaves fallen frosted across the lawn.
Their confession glinting on and on….