This Thanksgiving is rough for me. Not personally – I have so much to be thankful for. Good health (finally!), three daughters in various stages of graduate school, wedding planning, and new journeys embarked upon. Fantastic friends, a new doctorate program beginning, and the best husband the planet has to offer.
But I’ve also spent much time lately immersed in the refugee crisis, the not-very-Christian response to it, and the fears and hurts of the world. We’re excitedly putting together our “Good Neighbor” welcome kit for a refugee family and waiting to be matched to a family needing a friend to sort out things like learning English, negotiating grocery stores, riding busses, and obtaining library cards. Things we assume we will never have to learn all over again.
It is hard for me this year to look at a table filled with too much food and a family so fortunate beyond measure and think of these things. The ability to give thanks itself is a gift I can’t deserve or take for granted.
In saying thanks for five things, I decided I want to be thankful for people. Groups of people who have made my life better, or different, or at least, interesting. Here are my five.
People in my church
We are a motley mess. Six or seven years old now? The place still seems so new. We’ve been through adventures with God. We’ve been through celebration and loss and service and pain. This is the grandest adventure I’ve ever been on, with you people who know that grace is a verb and that sometimes giving a person time to grow is the best gift possible. You are my brothers and sisters, and that is a bond I don’t take lightly. I
may will let you down at times. But I am called to this church, and that means I am called to you. And I am thankful.
People who are different
I grew up in a white bread small midwestern town. The biggest differences I was aware of were that some kids were born to be on the cheerleading squad and some on the debate team, and those of us lower on the social order couldn’t mess with that. I had no clue about the wide world. Since then, I’ve lived in four cities and traveled to thirteen countries. There is an entire world of color and spice and fun out there!
You people are so different, and you teach me so much about the variety God created and how much He loves all the differences he made. You teach me more about His amazing versatility. His creative abandon and joy in making so much that is so not alike. I get a glimpse of that joy when I see you. Thank you for letting me in your world.
People who are younger than I
I remember when our lead pastor spoke once about the need for older people to mentor the younger people in the church. I looked around me for someone who could mentor me. Then the terrible realization hit – I was the older person. I was the adult in this scenario. I still felt like such a needy kid in so many ways.
Then the terrible realization hit – I was the older person.
I’ve wanted to succeed, for my writing to make a difference, for my ministry to matter for so long. Then one day recently, I turned around and realized – in ways I never anticipated, it does. Because younger people are suddenly telling me I am that older person to them. Or one of those older people. It has been a blessing to me beyond belief to hear that.
I am doing miles of research on Millennials and all things to do with the next generation. The one thing I’ve learned for sure is – I love you. You are awesome. (Just as your parents and coaches always told you, but not exactly.) You are keeping me real and honest and alive. You teach me to take risks and to ask questions. You are a well-deserving group to take on the mantle of faith. As deserving as any of us ever are.
People who disagree with me
It’s difficult to be thankful for you. I usually want to call you names. But I don’t, because Jesus. Also, because that’s not the way problems ever get solved or enemies ever become friends. I am thankful for you. You teach me to listen. You show me that my knee-jerk reaction to statements I don’t like is usually more jerk than knee. You make me a better person by forcing me to move past my us-them, right-wrong default and think deeply and clearly. You make me think through my own positions with humility, grace, logic, and Scripture. Let’s talk more. Wait – let’s listen more. Talk less.
People who qualify for “the least of these”
That sounds like I’m thankful for your neediness. No, I’m not. I would much rather you had all you need in this life. I would give much to know that no one had to be desperate enough to sell herself to beasts in the guise of men or to board a leaky boat to an unknown passage. But I can’t, so I am thankful that God will not allow me to rest in my entitlements. I am glad he breaks my heart when it would sometimes rather sit in fullness of all it has and pretend it has no obligation to those who have not. It does. I do. Continue to break me until you are no longer broken.
Whom are you thankful for? I’d love to hear. Go on over to Mrs. Disciple to see others Five Thanks!