When you hear ‘Thanksgiving’ does it conjure visions of fighting and divisiveness?
Apparently, anything ranging from politics, to religion, to raising children, and who gets banished to the table with them can bring out the relationship boogiemen, or so this past week’s podcasts, Instagram, and Facebook told me.
The table splits into two sides: us versus them.
How about another way to look at tomorrow?
Weighted versus unweighted.
Some of the folks at your table tomorrow may be carrying a weight. Maybe you know of it, maybe you don’t. Regardless, it’s a tough day for someone sharing your meal.
Or maybe you’re the weighted down? You might be bringing the best you have that day to this event. It’s a tough day, tough holiday, tough season for you, and yet here you are, sharing a meal.
This week, Tuesday was a physically tough day for me. We planted garlic, and between planted rows, we laid out 350′ swathes of heavy black cloth for weed control.
It goes a little something like this.
Jim stands at one end of the row, feeding armfuls of heavy cloth in my direction, untangling, and spreading it out as he goes.
I then, cartoon-character like, head down the row, tilting forward at a 90 degree angle from the resistance, black fabric gripped tightly in my hands behind me.
The ground was a muddy, boot-sucking mess to plod through. I hung on, and trudged forward, as the fabric caught the wet ground, creating tremendous drag on the fabric and a wee bit of cussing in me.
It took all my might to pull, and the last few feet, I honestly wasn’t sure I could make it.
I looked like the set-up for that classic girl-on-the-farm mudplant, needing only for a little weight to come off the back to send me face-first into the muck.
Sometimes we hold the weight. Sometimes we carry more than others. Sometimes others carry it for us.
Whichever place any of us might be standing right now, the weight is there.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”Matthew 11: 28-30, ESV
I love this passage. I don’t understand this passage, not really. But I love it.
However, Eugene Peterson, possibly the Mister Rogers of the Bible translations world, helps shed light on what my new-believer brain doesn’t yet grasp
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”The Message
Do you want to just lie down, under a cozy blanket, after reading that? I do. That’s the beneficial affect Scripture can have on my heart.
Because, Jesus, the weight I carry doesn’t feel easy. The weight my people carry doesn’t feel light
So now, I wonder: is that why Jesus gave us all these people?
All these good folks who can help us carry the weight, and who we can help when they’re weighted down – is that part of His help? How we live, in Eugene’s translation ‘freely and lightly’?
Not that every person is great. I grant you that. Some folks are real boneheads, through and through, and we do our best not to get stuck next to them at the line for broccoli casserole (because even the boneheads want broccoli casserole).
I mean those other people.
The ones happily preparing the meal, who tell you to pick up a gallon of sweet tea, or – better yet – nothing at all!
The ones with the precious babies, who understand you can’t hold the baby, but you’d still like to admire the baby from a distance.
The ones that bring funny stories about walking around at work, for the better part of the day, with kale in their teeth, or having their kindergartener program their iPhone because it’s hard, and make you laugh in a way you forgot you knew how to do.
The ones that give extra long hugs when that’s what you need, and one of those quick, circular back pats when that’s all you can take.
The black fabric wasn’t light, and laying it wasn’t easy. Sometimes Jim held more of the weight. Sometimes I did.
Thanksgiving reminds me of the muddy, boot-sucking terrain we were in yesterday. The pressure of visiting, the pressure of entertaining, the pressure of spending time with people you may or may not choose to meet for coffee in heaven, but who on earth you are very much forced to hang out with.
We take a day and we jam-pack it with expectation, company, heavy food, and mandatory attendance.
The chances of a full-out mud faceplant are high, y’all.
Here’s my thoughts on this. If you’re walking into a fraught Thanksgiving, remember, someone’s carrying some weight. Maybe it’s you. Maybe it’s someone else. But weight exists.
Another take on this might be, as the great Anne Lamott writes: ” … the reason life works at all is that not everyone in your tribe is nuts on the same day.”
Isn’t that amazing? We’re not all nuts on the same day. If that’s not straight from the Lord, tell me what is?
If tomorrow feels heavy, you might be the one with the weight. Go easy. Bring sweet tea, or nothing at all. Other people will be glad to hold you up. What a gift!
If tomorrow feels exciting, then be ready. Weight’s coming. You might get to buoy. What a gift!
Jesus tells us following Him means handing over these burdens. Sometimes He’s carrying them, and we’re led to help others. Sometimes He’s carrying them, and directing us on where to lean for support.
For all of us, God, please help us hold up, and be held. To support, and be supported. Bring us around tables with people to eat, and, laugh, and share, and be restored, and even rested. For the cooks, bring dishes together with ease, and lots of hands to help clean up. For the eaters, help us to appreciate all Your good food, shared with good company. Let this be a day to set our burdens down, and be with one another.
Bring us together, Lord, the weighted, and unweighted, knowing You’re carrying all of us, always. Let us remember to You we owe the thanks, and from You comes the giving.