I remember my first recollections of Thanksgiving. We dressed up like Pilgrims and Native Americans at school. We had a little class party where we learned about the Native Americans teaching the colonists how to grow corn. It was one of my favorite times as a child because we started out the day by going to my grandparents house (Nanny and Paw Paw's house). Cooking this feast would take all day. We usually walked in the door about the time the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was going on.
Surrounded by family, it was and is one of my favorite times. We have so much to be thankful for, and God is worthy of us giving Him thanks.
However, if we are not careful we will start to be more thankful for the gift than the giver. The hard reality is many of our fondest memories are the good ones. We cling to those, as we should. However, much like how we view the first Thanksgiving in 1621, we tend to paint a nostalgic picture of the past, and we become frustrated when our current realities don't match up to our expectations. According to historical accounts, the first Thanksgiving was full of twists and turns. It wasn't the ideal picture everyone has in their minds.
Most of the colonial participants in the three day harvest meal were men and children. Why? The vast majority of the women in their colony didn't make it through the winter and the spread of disease in the previous year. But by all accounts they gathered to give thanks to God for carrying them thus far.
Think about that. If half of your community, friends and family were gone - would you still gather to give thanks to God this week?
We have the story of the first Thanksgiving wrong in lots of other ways as well. They didn't have pumpkin or sweet potato pie. They probably met in late September or October. The relations with the Native Americans weren't so great either. Unfortunately, many would die out of greed and hatred because of our fallen nature. They probably didn't even eat turkey. More than likely, they ate venison and fish because there were lots of it in the area.
Not the picture we have in our minds, is it? Well, we still live in a fallen world. We still struggle with happiness and tragedy. We still feel the tension between contentment and selfishness. We do not live in a perfect world.
Here is my challenge to you this Thanksgiving: embrace it all. Take a look around the table. The good, the struggles, the loss, the miraculous, the challenging, the heartbreaking, and the heart-lifting. Take it all in and know that God is still good. I'm sure the pilgrims didn't understand why they experienced what they did that first year of colonization, but they trusted in God.
This year, I hope you have a real Thanksgiving. My prayer is that our thankfulness will not hinge on our circumstances, but rather, our Creator.
Psalm 136 "Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good. His love endures forever."