When you ask people what they're thankful for at this time of year, you're going to get a variety of answers. But for most us, they'll center around a few things:
Having enough to provide
Last year as I was learning more about the first few Thanksgiving celebrations the Pilgrims held in Plymouth, my husband shared some information that I hadn't considered before...and which shed new light on those things we're most thankful for.
That first terrible winter the Pilgrims endured saw nearly 50% of them dying from disease, starvation, and exposure. In exact numbers, it was 45 out of 102. I had never paused to consider which of the 102 died...but it certainly wasn't in whole family groups.
Children lost parents.
Parents lost children.
Husbands lost wives.
Wives lost husbands.
There was no family left intact. No homes to speak of. They didn't have enough to provide.
The first Thanksgiving came less than a year after these terrible tragedies. So what were the Pilgrims thankful for, I wonder? Just a bountiful harvest?
These settlers knew that family, that covenants and bonds were the most important things. They knew that to survive, they had to work together. And so, children who lost their parents were taken in by parents who had lost their children. Widowers marries the widows. New families were created. New homes built. New futures forged.
This year as we sit down to our bountiful tables and look at the loved ones around us, it is, as always, important to thank the Lord for them. For the food. For the homes. For having enough.
But it's also important to remember that even during those years when we don't have family, don't have homes, don't have enough...He is still worthy of our gratitude. He is still deserving of our praise. This is yet another lesson we can learn from the Pilgrims. That we aren't just thankful for the bounty...we're thankful for opportunity. For His guidance. For His salvation. We're thankful for freedom. For Jesus. For the yesterday that may have been ugly, and for the tomorrow that could be beautiful.
George Muller, a missionary who served in England during the 1800s, once thanked the Lord for empty plates--because they were an opportunity for Him to fill them in ways beyond human understanding.
This Thanksgiving, let's try to remember not just to thank Him for the full places...but also for the empty ones.