Memos for a Hard Thanksgiving

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Have you ever felt forgotten by God?

I remember one of those first hallmark moments in life when my faith collided with that dark, rumbling question at the core of so many of our disbeliefs: I know God is great. Is He really…good?

This may sound as juvenile as it actually was at the time—but my moment was when I was prescribed braces and oral surgery. When the doors had opened on the first day of high school that year, they’d unveiled the extra weight I had gained from puberty, and I seemed to be the only freshman cheerleader still ignorant of how to socially survive. I was officially an outcast. Popular athletes laughed in their circles of friends after I walked past. I found myself the target of openly rude comments in conversations, after which I could think of no other option than to duck my head or offer a lousy attempt at a grin.

And then, braces. God saw fit to strap some metal to my mouth, not to mention a degree of physical pain. Here I was, trying to show Jesus Christ to my school…and His will was to saddle me with social death?

Crippled inside, I clung to God that year, even while I averted my eyes and detoured groups of popular students and their peers in the hall. In my memory, this was a time of intense prayer and searching. My faith ran hard to keep up with the breathtaking fear sprinting through me.

I still recall sitting at my kitchen table, crying out to God. That was the night Isaiah 40 jumped from the page, and into my shamed, rejected heart.

Why do you say…
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth…
his understanding is unsearchable.

Wait. He understands all this? Understands what it’s like to be a 13-year-old social pariah, plastered with her own social missteps and mortifying exterior?

God had far from forgotten me. It’s easy to see now. But at 13, I had to labor to see His goodness in the grey winter of my soul. He’d lopped off a lot of physical beauty, a lot of social comforts.

Perhaps it’s fitting that Thanksgiving occurs as winter gathers its menacing whiteness; as the days grow chilled and dark—and we pause to remember He’s gifted what we need to survive. As author Sharon Garlough Brown writes, winter is

a purging season when all visible evidence of flourishing life was stripped away to reveal underlying forms in their stark, honest, vulnerable beauty. This was a time to trust the deep interior work of God, a time to watch for dawning light in distending darkness, a time to wait with hope, to remain alert, even while nature slept.

Perhaps the notion lurks in the corners of our minds when loss is shrouding all we can see. Is God’s will so important to Him that He doesn’t care if it’s good for me or not?

My sister mentioned to me today that when the Israelites first saw manna, they called it literally, What is it? They didn’t pick it up and gush, “Wow! God’s giving us just what we need!”

But what they didn’t detect? Its very presence was a broad declaration. He forgets not His own. Perhaps that’s a taste of why we’re to give thanks in all circumstances: because every one of them is a gift; an intricately designed remembrance of God toward us.

I love the power of Thanksgiving to act as a crowbar for the mind, recalling that the moments we feel overlooked are not only an anomaly in light of how we’re cared for. They may be, as Jerry Sittser writes, a grace disguised.

Wherever this Thanksgiving finds you, may you know you are far from forgotten.

 

 

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7 thoughts on “Memos for a Hard Thanksgiving”

  1. Pingback: Guest post: He loves me, He loves me not - A Generous Grace

  2. i really appreciate this blog, for it comes as I struggle with aging and the inability to do what I once could without any thought of my ability. Now, my body is breaking down and I start feeling sorry for myself and the strength I no longer have.
    I continue to hold on to the Lord, Knowing that He has not forgotten me.
    Thanks for this message, on Thanksgiving 2016, all is well.

    1. Johnnie, thank you for such a heartfelt story–and heartfelt thanks to God. Sometimes I think the praise that emerges from sorrow is some of the most precious to Him. May He continue to encourage you. I am praying this hope for you today from Job 19: “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold, And whom my eyes will see and not another. My heart faints within me!” Hope He gives you special glimpses of His care and compassion today.

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