A Different Kind of Thanksgiving

This year, I was really looking forward to Thanksgiving and the positive attitude it brings. However, when Thanksgiving week came, I couldn’t connect with the sentiment. I didn’t feel thankful no matter how hard I tried. As it turned out, there is no “Calendar” app for your heart.  You can’t just schedule your heart to feel grateful simply because it’s the 4th Thursday in November.

advent-candles-picjumboPhoto by Viktor Hanacek

I’ve read many teachings on the benefit of thanksgiving as a spiritual exercise. In the past, I believed that “if you give thanks, the feeling will follow”. However this year, my heart shut down and did not budge.  I couldn’t give thanks earnestly no matter how hard I tried. Perhaps that was my problem… I was trying too hard. I was trying too hard to control my emotions rather than simply listening to what the heart wanted to express.  

Feeling stuck, I stopped thinking about what I “should be” feeling, and instead listened to what the heart was actually saying. At first, the emotions that surfaced felt dark and stormy. I guess all of the holiday preparations had caused me more stress than I realized.  And then the tears came. I’m not sure why, but crying often helped to unlock my heart. A good cry can relieve emotional tension, and uncover the root causes of the emotional storm. Sure enough, as the tears flowed out, the deeper issues were exposed.

In the last few months, some things happened in my family where I felt a deep sense of loss and disappointment. At the time, I was acting in crisis mode, and shoved aside these feelings in order to manage the situation. After the event passed, I promptly moved on with life and got involved in other activities. However, just because I forgot and ignored these hurts and disappointments didn’t mean they were resolved. Unlike physical wounds, emotional wounds rarely heal on their own.  When I finally stopped my busy schedule to engage my heart for Thanksgiving, these forgotten emotions came knocking.

As I cried, it became clear how deeply disappointed and troubled I was. In my prayers, I acknowledged the hurts and grieved my loss.  I asked God to redeem the situations where people have failed me. I asked God for healing where I felt wounded. I cried and released those who caused me pain.

As I acknowledged each area, my heart became lighter.  At the end of this process, I finally felt at peace. It wasn’t Thanksgiving anymore, but my heart was finally grateful. I am grateful that God doesn’t require me to merely go through the motions of outward piety. I am grateful that He desires honest truth in my inmost being. I’m grateful that He cared about my heart even when I didn’t.

As we approach this holiday season, I’m sure there will be many times when what we feel in our hearts won’t match the schedule or the theme of the season. I encourage you not to be afraid of the “scrooge” inside. Engage your heart and allow it to express itself.  And then, invite God into that inner dialog. After all, the true meaning of Christmas is to celebrate “Yeshua” – God *with* us. Let us embrace the real gift of Christmas this year – the friendship and connectedness with the Divine.

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