Contemplative Life

Thanksgiving in the Midst

“For the beauty of the skies … for the joy of human love …”

The lines of this favorite hymn fill my heart this Thanksgiving and guide me into reflection–What am I thankful for? I am thankful for God’s blessings around me, and I know joy in being in Christ. I am blessed with family and friends. I am blessed with meaningful work. I am blessed to see and experience the Lord at work in my life and in the lives of others.

Yet in the midst of plenty I also feel pain and see brokenness near and far manifesting itself in all sorts of evils and despair, even this past week. I experience relationships lived out of self-centeredness. I live in a world of constant and rapid change with all that means in its challenges, changes, and losses. These I experience directly and in spiritual direction and prayer ministry. I know the anxiety of change, new routine, and questioning who I really am. Together with other personal challenges, I’ve felt more often than before that I was not tethered and certainly not in control.

And so, to ask that ever so challenging spiritual direction question, “Where do I see the Lord in all of this?” As the praise song says, “in Christ alone my hope is found.” He is showing me what I have been trusting in and it isn’t pretty: myself rather than in Him. He sees my desire to flee in fear rather than advance in Him. I too often choose to hold fast to those things and symbols which build my earthly identity and give me status, power, and perceived control.

But, in the midst of this recognition, the Lord is also gently helping me let go of my reliance on things not of him. When I go to the Lord with the question of what more do I need to do (Luke 18), I can join with St. Theresa of Avila and pray that I am willing to allow the Lord to take all of my burdens from me, including my pride, pain, and fear. I desire instead to accept the presence and yoke of Jesus. I desire for the Lord to fill me to running over with his love to serve as a blessing to others.

So, I am thankful that as a prodigal I can return to a waiting father, leaving behind all that I once held dear and desiring only relationship with God: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I am thankful for the hard things of life in that they reflect to me my hardness of heart. I am thankful for a Jesus who beckons and a Jesus who welcomes. I am thankful for seeing Jesus in brokenness, pain, and woundedness. “For the beauty …”. I see beauty in the returning prodigal. I see beauty in the mended heart. I see beauty in the reconciled relationship.

I join with family this Thanksgiving season and celebrate our blessings — material and spiritual. I join too with the fellowship of believers in the Great Thanksgiving, remembering and thanking God for the work of Jesus on the Cross. I pray for fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit.

May your Thanksgiving be blessed, in the midst!

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