Got up early. Checked the thawing status of the 22-pound bird that the two of us will sit down to later today. Two of us, who waited until the last minute to decide I wanted to make a small, but traditional Thanksgiving meal, so the only turkeys left were bigger than both our heads put together, and frozen. So he’s been swimming in the bathtub all night. Oh, I know. I can hear what you’re thinking. But thawing our turkeys in the bathtub, well, that just goes way back in my family, and as far I know, no one has died from it yet. Besides, leaving our homes and breathing around humans that don’t live with us are also unsafe, so as far as I can tell, we’re all rollin’ the dice these days.
But that’s not where I was going with this story.
It was my time with Jesus this morning. It actually started a few days ago, as I found myself looking back over my life for some reason, recalling both pain and pleasure, hard and easy, dark and light, sadness and joy. As I took a step back, I became overwhelmed with gratitude for the life God has given me.
The good, the bad, the ugly, and the hardest of the hard parts. The abuse that broke a little girl, the losses, the insecurity, the bad marriage that followed a bad marriage, the hopelessness and cancer and Covid – all mixed in with sporadic good memories of childhood and family and good friends and sitting on the roof eating Kool-aid mix and riding dirt bikes and playing marbles in the dirt, tetherball and hide & seek and being loved, and then children and grandchildren and a marriage that survived and the great big hope that now rests in me.
It surprised me to be thankful for it all, until I understood why.
In years past, when we went around the table to name what we are thankful for, it always went something like this:
I’m thankful for my family. For my health. For my freedom. For my job. For…all the good things in my life. None of that is wrong, or bad. But let’s shift it slightly.
I’m thankful to God for my family, health, etc. Now the focus is not on what we have been given, but who has been the Giver. But that’s not the full shift. This morning I discovered why I feel gratitude for all of the things in my life that, frankly, I’d prefer to forget.
Every bit of it has led me to know God. I’ve known so much mercy, healing, and saving because God is so good to pursue those running from Him. I’ve experienced His nearness in dark places because He is Emmanuel and He came into the dark to comfort me and speak words of kindness to my soul. I know the power of the blood of Christ to save a wretch like me because I was lost and He wanted me to be found.
God didn’t just show up on April 2nd 1989 when a man asked me if I was done living the way I was living and ready to accept Jesus. My heavenly Father didn’t listen to my prayer and then choose to come and stand next to me. He had been there from the time I took my first breath. He was there through all that was done to me through the free will of humanity, all that I did to myself and others through that same free will, and still, He chose to pursue me, to save me, to heal me, and to use every choice that had been made to show me His goodness and His love. He has stayed through all the parts, both good and bad. Never wavered. Always drawing me, inviting me to come closer, to lean in, to look up, and to know His heart.
And now, I can’t take my eyes off of Him. Every part of my life is His, and He is why I have any reason at all to be thankful…He is why any of us can give thanks today or any other day. Today, I give thanks to God, for Him. And I will allow that thankfulness to wash over me again and again as I remember my family and every other blessing in my life.
Give thanks to the Lord, because He is good. He alone is God and is above all titles of men, and He is worthy of our giving of thanks.
He struck down the firstborn of Egypt and brought Israel out from among them with a mighty hand and outstretched arm, and He is still striking down the enemy and bringing us out, so give Him thanks.
He divided the Red Sea and brought Israel through it and He continues to make a way for us when there is no way, bringing us through. Give Him thanks
He led His people through the wilderness and He is the one who leads us through ours, so give Him thanks.
He made a promise to give His people a home and He kept that promise and we too have a promised land and He is still a promise keeper, so give Him thanks.
He remembers the low estate of His people and He frees them from their enemy and He is still remembering and still freeing and let us give Him thanks.
Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.
(from Psalm 136)