© 2010 David's Harp and Pen
DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, so let’s just get this over with, shall we?
Thanksgiving 2000. I tried as hard as I could to get into the spirit of the season, but I could see little for which I could be thankful. That summer, a friend I used to work with committed suicide. Shortly after that, the man I loved moved over 500 miles away from me. The beginning of September saw me leave a ministry I loved because of things going on to which I could not be a partner. Then, another friend, someone who had been like a mom to me, died in a motorcycle wreck. Four weeks later, my grandmother died. The morning I left to fly home for her funeral, I found my cat dead on the front lawn, torn apart by some larger animal.
I remember sitting in the airport in Cleveland, waiting for my connecting flight to New Jersey. For most of that day, I felt like my insides would collapse. It was at that moment, You invaded my reality, as You always do, and whispered two words that at the time, couldn’t have been more foreign to me.
I flew back to Indiana right after the funeral, only to return to New Jersey a few weeks later to spend Thanksgiving with my family; I also planned to see the guy I missed so much. I told him how I felt about him, sure that he felt the same. He said he did not. In fact, what he did think of me was a blow I thought would surely finish me off. He had met someone else, someone who played games with his head and didn’t care about him at all. However, for some reason, he preferred someone who treated him like dirt over me. The basic rejection hurt even more in light of the one for whom he had rejected me.
When I returned to Indiana, I threw myself into preparation for my move to Nashville. I didn’t know anyone there. I had no job waiting for me. I had nothing waiting for me in my new home, but it really felt like I was leaving nothing behind, too.
I cried all the time. I was afraid to answer the phone, check email, or open letters because I was sure it would be bad news. Most of my friends who still stood by me didn’t know what to do with me. Some of them just listened and let me cry. Others were quite harsh and quick to tell me I was a victim and wasn’t bouncing back like I should. The thing was, though, I hadn’t just lost friends and loved ones to death in those short months. I had made a lot of enemies for the things I stood for, and the loneliness I felt was tangible.
As I faced the new year, my car packed out for the new frontier, I heard Your voice again, a little louder this time.
Thanksgiving 2004. My health was a mess, with no remedy in sight. I had to give up the business I had worked so hard to build. A ministry project I threw myself into whole-heartedly went up in flames. Another trio of loved ones passed away without warning, all within a few months. I was having panic attacks all the time, and the fear to communicate with the outside world for fear of more bad news had me feeling shackled and asphyxiated. I was afraid to try anything. I was afraid to get close to anyone. In the midst of my fear and my inconsolable grief, I heard Your Voice again, through my emotional stupor, this time, with a sternness and urgency until then unfamiliar to me.
You have not thanked Me.
God, what do I have to thank You for?
You have not thanked Me!
So, I threw myself on the floor on my face and cried out to You. I thanked You for the trials, for the grief, because You asked me to, and as I did, something happened. The burden lifted. I saw You carrying me and grieving right along with me. I saw You washing away my tears with Your own. I felt a strength and a sustenance beyond my finite human comprehension, and in offering gratitude I could not feel, You gave me joy I couldn’t explain.
Thanksgiving 2010. My father is not well. I find myself fearful again every time I see an email from home or a New Jersey phone number on my caller ID, because unlike the others in my life who have passed, my father has not made his peace with God, and I shutter to think of him going to eternity in such a state. Four friends have lost parents in the last year, and each time I heard, I was reminded afresh that another time of mourning is imminent. I have now buried 17 friends and family members, and it doesn’t get any easier with the passage of time.
I have no job, and I feel I have nothing to show in either finances or accomplishments for my thirty-six years.
It’s been 10 years since I made the move to Nashville, and 10 years since my heart was broken. I spent an entire decade closely guarding my heart, only to find it, in recent days, smashed to pieces afresh. God, it wasn’t supposed to happen this way. When I climbed Mount Moriah, put Isaac on the alter, and raised the knife, You were supposed to stop me. You were supposed to say I passed the test. Isaac and I were supposed to return home—together. The searing pain of a knife through the heart was supposed to be for the ram in the thicket, not for me. I wasn’t supposed to go home and face another holiday alone and empty-handed. As I sat again, with the noxious taste of grief still bitter in my mouth, I heard You yet again, this time with the volume of a million bugle horns.
So, I threw myself on the floor again in worship. I gave thanks with the only thing I had, namely those two words. It was there, again, that You gave me the clarity I needed, and I was reminded afresh of all I had for which to be thankful.
I give thanks to You, God, for You are good, and Your Love endures forever.
I give thanks to You, God, for the comfort You have given me through each season of grieving, because now I can effectively comfort those with me now who are walking through their own losses.
I give thanks to You, God, because You have given me the ability to weep with those who weep, not just rejoice with those who rejoice.
I give thanks to You, God, that in so many instances You did NOT grant me my request, because the legacy of the Israelites and countless others is You did grant their request, but also sent leanness to their souls, and I can say in all honesty, though my soul is wounded, it is indeed full.
I give thanks to You, God, that You allowed me such intense bitterness, because it was ultimately for my peace, and through it You have loved my life back from death.
I give thanks to You, God, because in everything and everyone I lost, You stripped me of the temporary to endow me with the eternal and to give me joy because of those I’ve led to You. Every work in building Your Kingdom that You’ve allowed me to share in are treasures in Heaven that no one or thing can ever take from me.
I give thanks to You, God, because You’ve made me worthy to share in the fellowship of your suffering as to be conformed to the death of Your Son, and that is a fate far sweeter than any pleasure this life could offer.
So, as another Thanksgiving approaches, those two words You have so faithfully reminded me of have become for me not a proverb, a platitude, or a once-a-year sentimental suggestion, but a lifeline, a gateway to sanity, and most importantly, a battle cry.