Earlier this year, I wanted to vomit at the sheer mention of Thanksgiving. I couldn’t stand the thought of smiling and pretending to be thankful for a list of cliches that were supposed to somehow make up for the searing pain I felt in my heart. It felt inauthentic and cruel to subside my hurt. But then to be expected to be thankful on top of it? Forget it. You can keep your damn turkey. I don’t even eat meat.
Loss can take us to a lot of dark places. And people try to comfort you with those terrible “someday you’ll look back and be thankful” cliches that make you want to punch them square in the face.
The things that were causing so much grief in my life were things I would never be thankful for. That’s what I told myself anyway. But in all fairness to myself, I wasn’t just being dramatic. I really did lose a lot this year: trusted relationships, friends, family, plans for the future- all things that meant a great deal to me.
But I’ve also learned about God’s graciousness. I’ve seen him reach through the darkness in my life and turn it into a beautiful, luminous space. And so as much as I hate to admit it, I think those infuriating people with their stupid cliches may actually have been right. Because I now have a list chalk full of beautiful blessings that were born because of things that I once cursed.
I’m thankful for adventure. Travel is one of my greatest passions, and this year I've visited more places than I ever have in my entire life (over 4 countries and 17 different cities). I've watched God recreate my life day by day, piece by piece, and city by city as he’s lead me through new, uncharted territory (both literally and metaphorically.) And what propelled me into action to start buying plane tickets and making these dreams a reality was new time and available space that had freed up following loss.
I’m thankful for time I’ve been able to spend on my own. Being a creature that's wired for companionship, I’d be lying if I denied the fact that sometimes I wish there was a fast-forward button on a cosmic remote control that could speed up the process of meeting my husband. But it’s been during this season of singleness that I’ve really learned to take care of myself. How to be alone. To fight for what I want out of life. I've learned it’s impossible to have a relationship with anyone else that’s better than the one I have with the Lord. That if I long for the future when I’m not content in the present, I’ll never be satisfied. I can now say that I know what it means to pick myself up after the world knocked the wind out of me- and to walk again. Some days it feels like more of a long-fought journey that I’m on than others, but I can say with pride that it’s mine- not anyone else’s. And I'm really thankful to be learning so much about the person I am- the one God created me to be.
I’m thankful for community. Losing friends can make you want to build up walls and try to keep everyone out. It's a scary and vulnerable thing to be known, and I still struggle to remind myself not to give way to that fear. But what happens when some friendships fade is that you suddenly notice the gems that stand out brighter than they did before. You have more attention to give to them. And you also create space for so many new and wonderful friends that you would have never met otherwise. You’re able to usher in an entirely new community that makes your life more rich and abundant. Because God is just that good.
And as Shauna Niequist says, "I believe that God does his greatest work in our lives during seasons of great heartbreak and loss. I believe that much of that rich work is done by the hands of people who love us, who dive into the wreckage with us and show us who God is, over and over and over."
I’m thankful for more than I ever imagined I would be this Thanksgiving: for the breaking of things that needed to be broken. For the ways that I’m not only different- but better. For being set free from things I didn’t even know I was enslaved to. And for getting a front row seat while I watched God tell a story of redemption in my life. But I’m especially thankful for his graciousness toward me - that he's allowed me the privilege to learn so many wonderful things. My cup runneth over.
"Do you see what we have? An unshakeable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For he isn't an indifferent bystander. He's actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won't quit until it's all cleansed. God himself is a consuming fire." -Hebrews 12:28-29