I imagine the first Thanksgiving, whether at Jamestown or Plymouth, had a lot to do with celebrating survival.
Only half the pilgrims at Plymouth had made it through the journey, a harsh winter, desperate hunger, and life-taking illness. There must have been some grief — no matter how stoic –when they looked around the table.
I keep thinking about that. How Thanksgiving may be less about gratitude for what I have and more about gratitude for God bringing us through suffering, pain, loss … a nuance, but one that turns my thoughts from material blessings, and even the fellowship of friends and family, to a deeper sort of thanks, made deeper by the suffering. By realizing my utter dependence on the Father for breath.
And the food on the table, the corn and meat that made up the pilgrim feast? A token of love, not unlike the manna and quail provided from heaven, that said, “I have not forgotten you…I did not lead you into the wilderness to die. I will take care of you.”
Losing a job, fighting illness, loss of a loved one, broken relationships, injustice, anguish over your addict’s choices… Sometimes, that’s all Thanksgiving can be.
A respite from pain. A table in the wilderness. A deep breath of grace.