I have been processing gratitude, or thanksgiving, all day long. I wish I could say the reason for my thinking is other than the day of Thanksgiving, but to say it isn’t would be a bit dishonest. The fact of the matter is that for me, being thankful… truly thankful… happens less often than I am proud to admit. Sure, I am glad that I have certain things, such as a job, a clear career path, continuing education, friends and so on; but do I ever really pause to gratefully experience these blessings? Not really. But there does come a day, once a year, that I am given a prime opportunity to experience thankfulness and give thanks in return.
The big question is, “What have I been thinking about today?” I have to be honest, my experience of the holidays is always a bit difficult for me as of late. There has been a slew of changes in my family the past several years, and my holiday season just isn’t the same as it used to be. I think a huge piece of this time of year are the traditions and memories you build with loved ones over the course of your life. Each year, we are granted the opportunity to come together again to reminisce about years past and look forward to things to come. Thanksgiving operates as a kind of signpost; we pass by it every year and are able to recall a year of highs and lows. Yet, at the end of it all, we come back together around those we love, recalling that we are all in this thing together, that we care for each other and no matter how hard things may get, people gather around to support us and stand with us through thick and thin.
Good thoughts for sure. But for me, well, things are not necessarily that cut and dry. Sometimes things go south, and the community you thought would always be there, turns up a bit divided. These things pass through my mind this time of year. Bleak, I know, but just stick with me. These things pass through my mind, but what also passes through my mind is what I am thankful for, and I mean truly thankful for. This year one word sums it all up for me: reconciliation. Reconciliation is the one thing I pinpointed this year as what makes my heart swell with gratitude. Its what keeps me going through it all.
Reconciliation finds its root with my faith. The root buried deep within the soil of my faith, the soil that gives birth to my life, both within and without, is that of reconciliation. Christianity is the story of a people divided from God. Through sin, I have been found empty, broken, and separated from God, and the story of Christianity is the story of the Triune God reconciling people to himself. Division has occurred and instead of leaving us in our mess, God the Father sent his Son to bring us out of it through his death, burial, and resurrection. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is sent so that those who place their faith in the work of Christ might know their reconciliation is secured. He brings us the identifying marker of knowing God as our Father, one who cares for us intimately and pours blessings on his children at every turn. My faith is placed within this narrative, and I have experienced reconciliation first hand.
Reconciliation does not end with just a “warm fuzzy” in my heart however. It could, and no doubt does for some people, but the Triune God’s love and amazing gift of reconciliation brings hope to me that all of the strife, anguish, and pain of human relationships are able to be brought to an end within Christ, the one who came to reveal God to a broken, frail humanity.
I have relationships in my life that need work, and because God saw fit to bring peace between himself and humanity… himself and me, even…I am committed to seeking reconciliation between myself and with those whom relationships have been broken. Sometimes these shifts in relations with others are caused by them, sometimes by me, and sometimes by something else, but the strength, determination, and promise of God to bring peace between himself and humanity makes my heart swell with thanksgiving.
Like a balloon.
Reconciliation is powerful. It is one of the most important things that two people can share. Its not an easy road and its not a fun road, but its a good road.
The goodness of reconciliation is why its been on my mind all day and I want to extend an invitation out to you to ponder this as well. The holidays are full of relational strife, and the only way for relational strife to end is through reconciliation. Reconciliation brings me hope, and if you know certain aspects of my life, you know how hopeless things could get. But over the years I’ve seen progress. Its slow, its unsteady, and if I don’t keep my eyes open I miss it. But if I pause and look, I see a beautiful tapestry being woven. Time is often what allows me to see this in its fullness, but reconciliation is what keeps me moving. I look at my relationships and I know that with effort and humility, my relationships can and will be restored.
I think of all this and I am thankful this year, but not for a job or money; these things I use without paying them any attention. They are taken for granted by me and to say that I am truly thankful for them would not be entirely accurate, not this year at least. But what I am thankful for is the process and reality of reconciliation. Friendships and relationships are what I prize and am thankful for above all else. So if you’re reading this and we work together, go to church together, are family, have a friendship, or interact with me frequently, know that I prize you and care for you immensely. I am committed to reconciliation first because my relationships are of value and for them to be broken is not worth it to me. Reconciliation is taught to me first through my faith; out of my assurance in Christ and his deep love in order to reconcile my relationship to him, I am assured that reconciliation is attainable across the board.
As this Thanksgiving comes to end, have a gratitude in your heart; love to you all!