It is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. I’m enjoying Todd’s extended family. I’ve laughed. I’ve cried. I’ve gone out in pursuit of pie crusts 12 hours before we needed them and actually found them in the well stocked HEB. I’ve jogged. I’ve hiked up hills. I’ve been in touch with my people in other places and at home. And I’ve prayed.
Last night, Todd’s dad did a devotional for the entire extended family on Thankfulness. That’s what got me crying. I was afraid I wouldn’t stop, but I had pie duty, so I pulled it together. We read a few verses, among which were Philippians 4:6 and Colossians 3:15.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”
It was mentioned that the opposites to thankfulness are worry (do not be anxious) and complaining. I have been guilty of both.
This has been a hard year for so many of my people. Some tables don’t look like they should this year, because they are missing important people. Some tables don’t have anyone sitting there at all. Life is hard. I saw a memory on Facebook of an old Thanksgiving post from 2015. I am pasting in an excerpt from it.
My family is moving into another phase of life with older, more active kids. I didn’t see it coming and I’m fighting this phase. I think a great deal of my own internal discord comes from my fighting the system instead of finding a way to thrive within it.
I read an article years ago about how to react if ever attacked by an alligator. Silly me, you may think. What a stupid waste of time to read articles about reacting to alligator attacks. Not really. I live on a river and I do stupid things. I think I have a reasonable chance of needing this advice at some point. If you are ever with me in a kayak, consider yourself covered. So I read the article. The point of it was that you can’t fight an alligator and win. He will win every time. The only way to deal with an attack is to roll with it. Literally. An alligator’s approach is to grab on and roll you over and under the water until you are dead by drowning. Then he stores you under a log and lets your meat rot and he’ll come back later and eat you. (You’re welcome. Now you know.) The best thing you can do in this situation is try to roll with the gator and come up to breathe and roll again. You try to keep rolling toward solid footing and give yourself time to be helped by someone else or get away. But you can’t go contrary to the gator. You can’t fight against it. You have to roll with it.
I’ve been fighting a system that is stronger than I am. A gator. I’m fighting something unchangeable. And I can’t. I have to roll with it. Come up for air. Work myself into the systems so that I can still be effective. Roll with it.
There are plenty of things right now that I have zero control over but wish I did. There are things I wish I could change. Things I wish I was less bothered by. Those things are the enemy of gratitude. I’m not thinking about them right now. Because what is right far outweighs what is wrong. And what is right is very clear to me today.
One of my favorite verses lately is I Samuel 2:9: It is not by strength that one prevails. If there’s a gator at your Thanksgiving table this year, deal with it carefully and you’ll prevail. Don’t feed it. Don’t fight it. Roll with it. And when you’ve made it out alive, look down river for someone else caught in the struggle. And help them roll.