With Thanksgiving approaching Thursday, I’m lucky to be alive, so I’m giving thanks for my friends and family.
My wife is working hard at her job as a first-year school teacher, putting in crazy hours, often working seven days a week. Recently she was suffering chest pains so intense that the school nurse drove her to the emergency room and her blood drawn (she hates needles), and tested for a heart attack. She’s fine, just severely stressed. So Love, I’m thankful I have you. Keep up the hard work. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. God has a plan for your life here, where you’re at. It’s a tough job. God put you there for a reason, to shine. And I know you are, because every day you come home, you’re still glowing. Keep it up.
My dad was driving home one winter day when he hit black ice. The Nova spun. He couldn’t get control and flew off the road, down the embankment, which was steep. Only one strand of barbed wire, stretched thin over his windshield, prevented him from plummeting to his death. He later told me his last thought was saying goodbye for my brother and me and mom, praying that God would protect us. He survived. Dad, I’m thankful every day you’re alive, for the role model you are, teaching us how to live as godly men.
When my younger brother Luke was born, he had a growth on his brain that the doctors were saying could be tumorous. It was growing rapidly and needed to be operated on immediately. The odds were against him surviving. To make matters worse (as if there could be something worse than losing a child), mom and dad didn’t have enough money to pay for the operation. Mom prayed, and Luke went into the surgery. It turned out that the bump was just a growth of skin multiplying on the surface of his scalp. He came home healthy and well with a few stitches on his skin. My older brother and I called him FrankenBaby. Luke, I’m thankful that you’re alive and grown, and for all the fellowship we’ve had over the years. You are truly a Light!
A woman in our church was recently diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. The lifespan of someone with the illness, after it is detected, is about four months. She gave her testimony before the congregation, wearing a wig, leaning on the podium, struggling to maintain her composure as she spoke with depth about the meaning of life, of letting go and accepting her death, preparing her family for when she was going to be gone. She said the hardest part about her decline was seeing her family suffer for her. But this woman approached death not as an end, but as a beginning. Earlier this month she passed on. She’s now in the arms of her Father, who is thankful, eternally thankful, that His Son chose to die for her, even when He didn’t have to—so she and her Dad could be a family together on this Thanksgiving holiday.
At every moment in this fallen world, there is the threat of death. It is crouching in the shadows, waiting for a weakness or some mistake so it can come in and destroy life—destroy the very best of holidays, of giving thanks for turkey and fellowship, of celebrating the sharing of oxygen. It’s true that no matter how hard I try, my Thanksgiving holiday will never quite live up to all the hopes I have for it, because of sin and death. But it doesn’t have to. As Paul writes, what we see and experience in this life is a mere shadow of what is to come (Romans 8:18).
So I’m counting this Thanksgiving not necessarily as a Season of Feasting, but as a seasoning for the feasting waiting for us with Jesus around His dinner table. I am humbled by death and loneliness, by loss, by brokenness. All of these seem to magnify around the dinner table on this holiday. So in such a fragile world, I’m thankful for the oxygen we share. I’m thankful most that the oxygen we share here on earth passed through Jesus’s lungs the morning He rose from the grave after He conquered death. I’m thankful that my Father and Brother and King lives and breathes, even now as I write this—that He is with our family. He is the holiday I celebrate.