"So fill your plate and fill your drink
And fill this house with family
The kind of love that all these years can't wash away
Cause the older that I get I see
That life is short and bittersweet
Thank God for this Thanksgiving Day"
- The Thanksgiving Song, Ben Rector
It's the first of "firsts". The first Thanksgiving where we looked around the table and it was painfully obvious who was missing. And that's exactly what I felt. Pain. Heartache. Sadness.
These emotions crept their way into my head and heart on the drive to Dad's house. Thanksgiving was always celebrated at his house and even though I wasn't at every single one, there was something about being with him and our family at his house with the smell of food and the sound of laughter drifting from the kitchen to cling to every room and wall. It was a feeling that we all feel when we realize we are living in a moment that if you dwell on how good it is too long, the moment vanishes. It's Thanksgiving.
Today was just so different. There was an emptiness that was so unnatural. Grief snuck in silently and became stronger as the day progressed. I was asked to carve the turkey. Dad always carved the turkey and I experienced the frustration he often felt at our shared inability to properly prepare a full turkey. The poor bird was an apt representation of my heart.
We gathered in the living room and collectively felt the heaviness of the loss we all recently experienced. Dad would always bless the meal at Thanksgiving and now that sacred moment was just another reminder of how unfair life is. Thus it fell to me.
And I prayed.
I prayed through tears. I prayed through grief. I prayed through sorrow.
I prayed God would help us. I prayed God would bless us. I pray God would fill the house with His joy, His Presence, His peace. I thanked Him for His many blessings and His grace. And of course the abundance of food.
I've experienced so many emotions leading up to today. Part of me wanted to rush through the day and get it over with. Part of me wanted to be anything but thankful. Part of me wanted to be angry at how wrong all of it felt.
As I was driving down the interstate to my Dad's house and fighting off these belligerent parts of me, I remembered something a good friend shared with me about grief. Don't rush through it. Feel it. Don't dread it. Walk through it. God created us to grieve. Christ Himself experienced grief in loss. Hebrews 4:15 declares, "we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin" (ESV, emphasis mine).
During that prayer, it occurred to me that the supernatural progression that Scripture leads us through is from grief to gratitude. I was heartbroken, but so thankful. Unglued in spirit but gratified in Christ.
It is a concept I pray you receive should you ever find yourself walking along this same discouraging road. The burden of grief is lifted by a thankful heart. Grief gives way to indebtedness by understanding just how much God has blessed you. It is so hard to accept but so necessary to move past the grief in a healthy way.
Yes, you experience and live in the grief for a season. Then you move into the next season God has for you via the road of thanksgiving. You can't pitch your tent in grief because God has something bright and beautiful planned for you just around the corner.
Dad loved having everyone together at Thanksgiving and the holidays. He cherished the times we were all together. This year we ate, we laughed, we cried, we shared, we hugged and we experienced all of the emotions of the season. We did it all just as Dad would have wanted us to - together.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His steadfast love endures forever! - 1 Chronicles 16:34 ESV