When Thanksgiving is a Sacrifice

Photo by Sean McGrath | CC BY 2.0
Photo by Sean McGrath | CC BY 2.0

I don’t want give thanks. Sorry, Ann Voskamp, but my heart can’t hear you now.

I gaze at the starry sky, watch thunderheads roll out over the ocean and lightning bolts streak from the clouds to the water; I stand in speckled green sunlight beneath rows of cypress trees draped with Spanish moss…and I don’t want to say, thank you.

Because to accept these things, these moments, as gifts, and to open my heart to offer thanks, feels wrong somehow. More than wrong. It actually hurts.

To thank Him for what He’s given, reminds me of what He’s taken. Thanksgiving requires receiving. And to receive I must open my hand, my heart…see, feel the ugly, weeping wound. To receive, I must let go.

He gives and takes away.

And I’m not ready for that yet. I’m not ready to say, thank you God for the sea and the stars, because they cannot compare with what’s been lost.

Paint the sky black and give me back the one I love. Drain the color from this earth and give me his ocean eyes instead. Still the waves and let me hold my brother’s hand. Silence the storm that I might hear his laugh.

Lord, You have ripped out my heart and asked me to keep breathing. Even whispering words of gratitude burns like lifting a boulder with my ribcage.

So I linger somewhere between acceptance and rejection. I am not willing to say No to God and yet I am not able to say, it is well with my soul. Because it is not well with my soul. And I don’t know if it ever will be. 

Forget delicate talk of feelings and hope and help and comfort, when all I feel is the cold, sharp edges of rage, grief, pain. And by some wacky, spiritual, fallen-world paradox, the only One who can help me through this is the One who let it happen.

He gives and takes away. He inflicts but then He wants to comfort.

No, wait…that should be a question: He inflicts but then He wants to comfort? What the …?! In what universe would that be acceptable? Admirable? Who is this God I worship?

Oh, the battle is real. The battle between rage and surrender.

Have you ever seen a young child angry at his parents because of a decision they made? Have you witnessed the child’s internal struggle as he’s torn between his need for intimacy and his desire to reject those who hurt him? He might refuse to play, to smile, to receive comfort or affection. It’s painful to watch, especially because he hurts himself most. And all the while you know, that in the end, he will return to his parents and the wellspring of their love which he so desperately needs. But not without sacrifice. In reconnecting to his parents, the child in essence says, I need you more, I love you more, I want you more than I want my own way. I will accept what you give me – or don’t give me – even if it hurts, even if it’s not what I want. I will still love you, even now.

I get that kid. I am that kid. Angry. Hurting. Stubborn. Afraid.

Photo by Sanyamshri | CC BY-SA 3.0
Photo by Sanyamshri | CC BY-SA 3.0

And God, I don’t want to fight You, because I know I’ll lose – I’ll lose so much more than I’ve already lost. Which really doesn’t seem fair. You always have the winning hand. Because You’re God. You get to win just by being You.

And You owe me nothing. My breath, my life, my very being hangs on Your word. I am dust. A vapor. Nothing. I am nothing.

[Without you] I. Am. Literally. Nothing.

And that is the black, breath-sucking, untethered truth. 

You are because You are. And I am nothing unless You say I am. 

So perhaps if I can’t find it in me to thank you for any one thing, maybe I can start by simply thanking you because I am something. Perhaps I can thank You because I am that You say I am. Perhaps I can start there.

You see, it’s not so much that I’m ungrateful. I consider all I have; I feel grateful. But to offer that gratitude to Him, to thank Him for what He’s given when it’s not what I wanted most…that hurts.

In some seasons, thankfulness requires sacrifice.

I open my heart to say thank you, God, for laughter with family and friends beneath a lunar eclipse…and I wince at the loss of his laugh, his girl-giggle, infectious laugh.

I sing on Sunday that God is love and God is just…and I weep for the justice on which I’ve set my hopes, the justice which my eyes have yet to see.

I smile as my nephew shrieks when Doug whisks him off the ground and flips him upside down…and my heart aches because his father isn’t here.

I prepare for Thanksgiving with family and even in the menu-making we laugh and laugh and I am grateful that we can make menus that include several appetizers, three stuffings and five desserts…and tears well just behind my eyes because this will be our first Thanksgiving without his cooking, our first Thanksgiving without him.

The Lord gives and takes away.

Like the wounded, angry child who climbs into his mother’s lap for bedtime cuddles, maybe I can fall into the arms of the Lord, hurting, disappointed, angry, desperate and afraid, and let my soul cry, I need You more, I love You more, I want You more than I want my own way. I will accept what You give me – or don’t give me – even if it hurts, even if it’s not what I want. I will still love You, even now.

Because the sacrifice of thanksgiving, the wounds of worship, the loss in loving, they hurt…but isolation, bitterness, not loving…they hurt so much more.

© Nichole Liza Q.

The above was written in response to Writing 101, Day 16: Mine Your Own Material. 

14 thoughts on “When Thanksgiving is a Sacrifice

Add yours

  1. I understand how you feel, I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t lost someone they dearly love, I have and you did too. This is the cycle of life, we live, we laugh and we cry. There is pain in it but we also learn from it. Which reminds me what I learned in Moral Science: Man can be happy to some extent but he cannot attain perfect happiness.So my dear friend enjoy what you have, who knows for how long! Happy Thanksgiving. 🙂

      1. sorry? No! Please…I just so deeply felt all that you were so amazingly detailing about this, so difficult ,journey of ours, being human/children of God. Very moving..hit deep spots of understanding in me. Hug…

  2. I’m sorry it hurts. I will pray that in it’s time, you receive healing. Sometimes Christians ignore how hard it is to love an Almighty God in the reality of death and loss, and I’m glad you were honest about how much pain there is in that. I will pray that God will hear your prayers.

  3. “I am that you say I am”….wonderful turn of phrase there. Love you Nichole and appreciate your honesty and contemplations.

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