Thanksgiving: Pleasure or Pain?

4:02 PM

So, in case you didn't know, I loooove my job. Working at a church that literally meets people right where they are, where they accept and love you despite your race, gender, sexual orientation, or religious background, where the focus is on loving with the love of Christ rather than religious tradition, is awe-inspiring. I am so grateful for Saint Pauls because I am affirmed, reassured, loved, challenged, and accepted for who I am. In honor of Thanksgiving, the senior pastor of St. Pauls, Matt Fitzgerald, sent out this note to the congregation and I wanted to share it with my friends.

When I was a child my father loved roller coasters and I was terrified by them. When I was in the second grade we went to Busch Gardens. He enjoyed the brewery tour and I enjoyed the cotton candy. And then he made me ride this giant roller coaster. I gripped the crash bar so tightly my knuckles turned bone white. And the whole ride long I wondered “why?” Why would anyone invent such an infernal machine? Why would my father drag me on it? Why was everyone else so senseless as to enjoy the thing? Why did my insides feel upside down? And why was God letting this happen to me?

It finally stopped. I teetered and weaved my way out of the cart. My dad looked into my twirling pupils and green face and said, “Let's do it again!” 
The second time I kept my eyes open. And from the top of the ride I saw these things: giraffes in the distance, wandering across an open plain, their necks just long enough to eat the tops of trees just high enough to meet them. I saw vacationing families at rest, bathed in the light of an early evening summer sun. I saw a crowd of 500 people laugh as one when a one-ton killer whale leaped out of his pool to breach and grab a fish from his trainer's hand and splash each one of them as he smashed back into the water joyfully. And just as we hit the apex of our ascent and started the roller coaster's plunge I saw my father smiling like a little child as the sudden rush of wind lifted the horseshoe fringe off the sides of his bald head. And everything I saw was beautiful. But  this time around I didn't bother to ask why.

I sometimes worry that we are so busy white knuckling through the ride, the twists and turns, hills and valleys of our lives that we fail to either observe or absorb the goodness flying by us all the while. And then I worry that even when God's care is obviously evident we don't bother to ask why he is so good to us.

Thanksgiving doesn't appear in the Church's liturgical calendar. But it is a wonderfully religious holiday. And it is a great day to ask “Why the pleasure?” instead of "why the pain?" As you give thanks tomorrow I encourage you to ask that question. And I trust that the answer will point you straight toward our God's abundant love. 

This story spoke to me on so many levels. There are many things I could be upset about today. The extension that I didn't receive on an assignment that I am now crunched for time to finish, my cell phone that I ignorantly left on the train, n'er to be heard of again, the lack of sleep over these last few weeks due to end-of-semester blues. But in all theses things, I have reason to be grateful. Because I know I am right where God intended me to be.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.

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