Walking our Faith: Worried about baggage at the dinner table? Here’s your guide to a better Thanksgiving (column)
Walking Our Faith
There were years when I lived in New York that instead of going home to Florida for Thanksgiving, I stayed in town and cooked elaborate feasts for friends who were no more than acquaintances. Most of the time I justified my absence by saying I’d be home for Christmas.
But truth be told, what I was really avoiding wasn’t crowded airports, but the stress of sitting around a Thanksgiving table with my family. When I went home to Florida, I felt like an outsider and I acted worse.
After many years of difficult conversations and a lot humiliation on my part, there is nowhere I’d rather be on Thanksgiving or any other holiday, than with my family. Our family dynamics are far from perfect. Sibling rivalry still rears its ugly head at the worst moments, but I’ve come to appreciate that although we’re family, we’re individuals who’ve lived very different lives.
We hold the most unrealistic expectations of our parents. When I was growing up, I wanted a stay-at-home mom, dinner at home and shopping together for clothes. Instead, my mother worked as an educator during the day and at night, and on weekends she pursued one of five degrees: two bachelor’s, two master’s and a doctorate. She worked in a children’s orphanage in Alaska before it was a state and lived and taught in the former Soviet Union until she was 80. She is a beautiful and remarkable woman.
My brother wanted a father who would do dad things: take him fishing, work on his car and fix things around the house. Instead, my father worked the night shift at the post office, read the Wall Street Journal, the journal of Foreign Affairs, the National Geographic and dreamed of travel. He worked every available hour of overtime to provide more for us.
Somehow, even as adults, with full knowledge of our own shortcomings, we never accept our parents as anything other than what we want, not who they are: hardworking individuals with dreams of their own, and a love for us we couldn’t see through our unrealistic expectations. And that is the history we bring to the dinner table at holidays.
The other evening, it occurred to me that the Lord’s Prayer might be the perfect guide to help us get over ourselves and leave our baggage at the door.
When Jesus’ disciples asked him how to pray, he recited what we know as the “Our Father.” So familiar, we recite it without thinking. But when you break it into its individual sentences, it’s a perfect guide to living, which means it’s the perfect guide for putting our holidays in perspective. So, let’s get started, the mashed potatoes are getting cold …
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name
When we step onto holy ground — when we pray that’s exactly what we are doing — we should begin by acknowledging who we are speaking to. Our Father. God, who loves us so dearly. There is nothing we can ever do to earn this love and yet it’s given freely. In greater amounts than we could ever comprehend. So, let’s begin by saying thanks. “Hallowed be thy name” you are beyond my comprehension, but I am grateful you are here, God.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven
God, I’ve made more than my share of mistakes in life. Maybe it’s time I acknowledge your way is better than mine. And when I realize I’m not perfect and turn my life over to you, perhaps I can also give that same compassion to others, especially the people in my family, who disappointed my impossible expectations by being human.
Give us this day our daily bread
Here we are, Lord. Sitting around this table. Perhaps we are sitting with family, or as the guest of another family. Perhaps we are sitting at a table with strangers. Or perhaps we are sitting alone. No matter what our circumstance, dear Lord because you are here with us, we thank you for what we have and pray that it will nourish our bodies and our souls. We thank you for everything you have provided today and trust you will do the same again tomorrow. We are grateful for all we have.
and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us
When we blame our parents for being controlling, Lord, help us to understand they were just trying to keep us from making the mistakes they’d made. Help us to forgive our short-sighted anger and give us the humility to admit our mistake so we can rebuild our relationships. We can now enjoy being with people we love because we see them with the same compassion we wish to be seen. We are all on a journey of becoming who we are meant to be. The more we seek you, God, the more we shed who we are not and grow closer to who you created us to be, loving, forgiving and very full of your compassion.
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
There are moments when our circumstances cause us to fall back on who we were, forgetting who we have become thanks to your love. Forgive us, Lord, and help us to return to the right path. Help us to be patient with others who are experiencing the same challenges.
For Thine is the Kingdom, the power, and the Glory, forever
Because, Father, we realize you are our source of love and forgiveness and healing. When we send our prayers to you, there is nothing that can overcome your love for each of us. No matter how imperfect we are, your compassion overcomes our weakness. We love you, Father. Thank you for loving us, first.
“Amen” is the best way to say thank you. It is like sealing an envelope holding the most precious contents. “Amen” is saying we agree with God.
I send you my love and wishes for a Thanksgiving blessed with God’s real presence.
Suzanne lives in Breckenridge and her books can be found at the Next Page Books and Nosh in Frisco.
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