Anxiously awaiting four (yes, you read that correctly) different thanksgiving gatherings over the holiday, I wrote a simple prayer in my journal.
Writing my prayers with paper and ink, for me, gives them fullness because in writing, there is an ease in both articulation and authenticity. With little effort, my hopes, fears, anxieties, desires, concerns, and thoughts rise from my soul and I know what it is I want to speak to God.
Plus, being a vegetarian on a holiday with excessive amounts of turkey calls for extra kinds of prayers (kidding, kind of).
I want to share this prayer with you.
Lord, thank you for this day.
I give thanks for a time we can remember, reflect, and cultivate gratitude.
I recognize that this space is holy. Humble me Lord, and let me honor that today.
I thank you for the humans I will sit with today. Cousins, aunts, step-uncles, family friends, grandparents, dogs, and mom, and dad, too.
We sit and eat with our people whom have both celebrated and hurt us; With our people whom have inspired and disappointed us; With our people whom have defended and accused us; With our people whom have loved and left us.
We are sinners and we are saints. And so am I.
I ask, Jesus, that this day of gratitude looms larger than philosophical, political, and worldview differences.
We eat together anyway and God, that’s the real gift.
Jesus, bring your mercy and bring your peace. Extend it where I may fall short. Thank you, Jesus, for this life.
I love you, this day, and I love this life, too. Amen.
This might be shocking (insert sarcasm here), but I’m actually not an expert on prayer. I don’t know for certain how it works. I think that’s what makes the whole faith process miraculous; we don’t know precisely when, or how, God enters these conversations, but without a doubt, He is there.
I think prayer is a revealing of self before God. Which, seems funny, because God already knows us. Still, like the exchanged vulnerabilities in any relationship we have in our life, it’s our responsibility to reveal the cracks in our perfectly manicured presentation of self and share who we are. Like, for real.
That’s why I think prayer is powerful and, I think it’s why prayer works, too.
As we toss away the layers before God, we also do so with other people. We become ourselves. And with time, we become more comfortable with that, inviting and allowing God’s grace to change us. We’re imperfect (and so are other people), and my goodness, that’s literally okay.
The table of Thanksgiving offers us this opportunity to not only empathize with the imperfection of ourselves and others, but to celebrate the goodness, beauty, and loveliness of ourselves and others, too. No matter the brokenness, the victory, the celebration, or the heartache, we’ll eat together anyway.
We’ll eat together even as we talk about religion, politics, money, sex, or the 2016 election.
We’ll eat together even if not everyone in our family can be there.
We’ll eat together even when someone drinks too much and says something insensitive.
We’ll eat together even if a loved one refuses to accept another for who they are.
We’ll eat together even if forgiveness has yet to be offered, received, or accepted.
We’ll eat together even as family members begin counseling to save their marriage.
We’ll eat together even if someone continues to work far too much.
We will eat together anyway because we are family and these are our people.
I’m grateful to have this – knowing full well that there are many individuals roaming streets, dumpsters, and shelters, with no place to go.
I’m thankful to have a home and these traditions that have come long before me.
I’m thankful for this year, because without it, I don’ think I would be able to celebrate love, community, Jesus, perseverance, hope, freedom, and maturity the way that I can now.
I am thankful because it is the love of Christ that allows me to see this world bent towards justice and light and courage.
2016 was not good – for many (think: Syria, the death of Muhammad Ali, the Zika outbreak, racial tensions in the U.S., Brexit, etc.). John Oliver even talked about it being the worst year ever. Historians don’t necessarily agree, but we can all recognize: this year wasn’t the best.
Yet, I’m propelled, encouraged, and inspired to continue to seek all that we give thanks for: community, hope, love.
Our job is to seek, promote, and allow these things to come before the standing world order of power, greed, money, self-focus, and all of the sin that runs rampant to de-throne a different kind of kingdom that Jesus speaks so heavily about.
Until then, as we strive towards this, we give thanks and work that much harder – together.
We can give thanks because we are not alone in these pursuits.
As an addendum to my prayer, I wrote the following words in my journal from a book by Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, of House for All Sinner & Saints,
“It is next to impossible in isolation to manufacture the beautiful, radical grace that flows from the heart of God to God’s broken and blessed humanity.
As human beings, there are many things we can create for ourselves: entertainment, stories, pain, toothpaste, maybe even positive self-talk. But it is difficult to create things thing that frees us from the bondage of self. We cannot create for ourselves God’s word of grace. We must tell it to each other. It’s a terribly inconvenient and oftentimes uncomfortable way for things to happen. Were we able to receive the word of God through pious, private devotion – through quiet personal time with God – the Christian life would be far less messy.
But, as Paul tells us, faith comes through hearing, and hearing implies having someone right there doing the telling…Sometimes, I believe that God’s word of grace can also come through simple, imperfect everyday human love.”
–Accidental Saints, Nadia Bolz-Weber