I grew up in one of those Judeo-Christian homes that apparently strike terror in the hearts of the likes of Betty Friedan, Alan Grayson and Kathryn Joyce. My parents never had sex until they got married to each other. Theirs is an enduring...

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

What are you giving thanks for?

Last year around this time, I happened to flip through an advertisement peddling holiday-themed trinkets of paper and plastic. I really hoped to find something relevant to Thanksgiving. But as I glanced down a decorative poster of things to be thankful for, I was stunned by its triviality. A good school, my toys, my family, friends, a house to live in, good food- they seemed to mock the stark reality of Plymouth in 1621, and the feast of thanksgiving which has inspired thanksgiving feasts for almost four hundred years.

In other reading material last fall, I had been introduced by the pilgrims' young governor, to a band of individuals so hardy and so courageous that they thanked God, despite the fact that hardly one of them still had a complete family. Death had struck nearly fifty out of the hundred in their company, within a two-month period. For several of those whose family still lived, an ocean lay between them. The crossing was three weeks in the right season, nearly impossible in the wrong season, and there was no such thing as a phone call.

Some sorry shacks with dirt floors and thin walls would serve as shelter in the Massachusetts winter, but would hardly keep out the cold. And when the rugged adventurers weren't starving, they had fish to eat. The governor expressed that after eating fish, practically alone for two and a half years, they did develop quite a distaste for it.

There were friends to be thankful for, but after crossing the Atlantic in the hull of a small boat, with a hundred people in a space the size of a some of our family rooms, surely every fault of each of them had been laid bare. (Think of the last twelve-hour road trip you took with your family- and then picture not being able to get out of the car for three weeks.) Their relationships survived the trial, but these were not the easy friendships of our childish thanks-giving. Other friends the pilgrims were thankful for had remained in Holland. Most of these, they would never see again, but letters were exchanged faithfully, as often as the ships could carry them.

It seems almost meaningless now, to note the nonexistence of schools in the Massachusetts wilderness, or the primitive and rare nature of the children's toys.

What were the pilgrims thanking God for? What were they thankful for after their family members were snatched from their grasp and ushered into eternity through starvation, bitter cold and relentless disease? These men and women were thankful for something more valuable than their families, more powerful than their new "homes" in a harsh new land, more significant than a sufficient harvest and a successful hunting trip. Taking into account the grave loss they endured, I think they must have been thankful for something even greater than the birth of freedom of conscience in the western world.

Our national "Day of Thanksgiving" has been reduced to a commemoration of the pilgrims' courageous endeavor, and a celebration of thanks for the things we hold dear. What would we be thankful for, if all the things we hold dear were taken from us? What were the pilgrims thanking God for?

This year I purpose to set apart a day of celebration of thanks, not for the pilgrims, and the influence they had on the future American government. I want to celebrate a day of thanks for the things which can never be taken from me, for the love of God, which will never pass away, and which nothing can separate me from, for His holiness, His righteousness, His faithfulness. I want to give thanks for the same things the pilgrims were thankful for.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Caleb said...

Hey Tiffany,
Very good point!
Hope to see you all soon!

God bless!!!

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Sage said...

Your writings are excellent!!! Thanks for sharing such wisdom and insight. I didn't know that you were currently blogging, but happened to look you up last night and was so blessed by your "thanks" entry. I thought
about it when I went up to bed and started to grumble to myself that I didn't have flannel sheets on yet!!! I am thankful I have clean sheets, and a bed, and a cozy little room and.... Thanks again. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

1:17 AM  
Anonymous Bonnie said...

What a great post! I'm guessing this would be the oldest :) I
wasn't aware of the fact that you had a blog until I got a hit from your list of
links. Thanks :)

1:20 AM  
Blogger 1of14 said...

Thank you all for reading, and commenting!!!!!! I'm SO excited to know that someone visits my blog! (I'm sorry- I uploaded your comments when you posted them, and apparently forgot to republish the site. Aaagh!)

Bonnie, that is a very good guess! Guess again. :c)

6:58 PM  

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