Thanksgiving is just around the corner. And, while we don’t really celebrate it here in the UK compared to across the pond, it has become a wonderful tradition for me and my friends. Standard procedure is to find a nice holiday home for the weekend and have a big feast together.
As part of the meal, we go around the table and share some of the things we are thankful for from the last year. While it is a simple tradition, it is something that I greatly look forward to. It encourages me to look back through the year and notice the strands of goodness throughout. Even though, in the moment, I may not feel overly thankful, being able to look back through the year shows the journey – the ups and downs – and appreciate not only the good times but also how I have come through the difficult times and how they have formed me. It is a practice very similar to an examen, a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day to detect God’s presence first practiced by St. Ignatius Loyola over 400 years ago.
I find that this can be particularly powerful during the autumn and winter months, the seasons of unseen-ness. Outside, the days feel shorter, the darkness sets in, we see no plants or flowers and many animals are hidden away in hibernation. Everything feels unseen. But the green-fingered among us will know the importance of this season. Resurrection can only occur once we have passed through death.
I find it quite difficult to embrace this season. A season of slowness and not of fruitfulness. It feels like it goes against our capitalistic culture which expects continual production all the time. But perhaps, like the plants and the animals, we would be wise to embrace a different way.
Although we may not see the fruit, or the growth, it does not mean that it is not happening. It is simply unseen. The growth happens deep down, in the hidden places of the cocoons, the nests, the caves and in the ground. It is where roots are strengthened while above, the tree is confronted by nature’s winter. It is where the hope that better days will come is most challenged.
So, what can we do in these trying months? This is where thanksgiving can be most powerful.
Psalm 100:4 encourages us to do just that: ‘Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.’ I like to think that thanksgiving is the first step in worship, our first gate of entry that helps remind us of God’s blessings in our lives.
It’s an opportunity to examen the last year – to find those threads of goodness that can be a reminder of God’s blessings in our lives and show us that He has brought us through those challenging winters. Just as squirrels and other animals store up food for the winter months, we can bring with us the reminders of God’s goodness as encouragement. And so, when the bitter winter months challenge us, we are equipped with the confidence of God’s unfailing presence and blessing in our lives.
So why not join me this season and have your own thanksgiving? Think back through the last few months or year and make a note of all the blessings or moments you can be grateful for. I pray that in this unseen season, you would know that God is at work in the depths and that the shoots of resurrection are always around the corner.
Ryan Galpin is PF’s Communications Officer.
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