Thanksgiving is a holiday dedicated to gratitude, but often involves people that are difficult to be grateful for. That aunt or uncle of a radically different political persuasion, that sibling you haven’t seen for an awkward amount of time. And if it weren’t for Thanksgiving, you might not naturally gather with these people.
Meals, especially feasts, bring people together. Think of how many stories or movies end at the table. History will culminate with the Supper of the Lamb. And we fellowship over a meal in the Eucharist. And yet how do we deal with difficult relationships in the midst of these symbols of fellowship?
I offer these three suggestions.
- Give thanks beforehand for your difficult relatives or friends. Gratitude for difficult people is more for your sake than theirs. No matter how difficult they might be to you, consider that you may be difficult to them. Have compassion on them, and decide to love them as you want to be loved.
- Just eat. Unless there is a specific instance of broken fellowship that requires repentance and forgiveness, don’t fix all your differences before the meal, and only maybe tackle them after tummies are full of good food and drink.
- Be humble and sincere. Gratitude is a virtue, but sometimes our “virtues” are precisely those intolerable characteristics that make us (or others) unpleasant to be around. For example, a 15 minute prayer from “Uncle Joe” while everyone is starving and the food is getting cold might be an example. Don’t be that guy. Or perhaps you’ve been using our courses and reading the “grrrreat books,” and suddenly you’re under the impression that you perfectly understand the world, and most of all why your entire family is wrong. Don’t do that either. Partly because you’re probably wrong, but mostly because it’s not kind or effective. That said, don’t be afraid to state the truth in love, especially if your family or friends are unbelievers. Differences are rarely reconciled or overcome by winning arguments, but by winning souls. Food and fellowship are a good tools for the task, so use them.
If you spend Thanksgiving with relatives or friends who are difficult, give thanks specifically for that difficulty. And in giving thanks, you will be the first recipient of grace as God works in you, and perhaps, just maybe, it will be the instrument God uses to work in that other person too.
A brief note about our Thanksgiving campaign. We have highlighted over a dozen classical authors, and did so in the shape of imaginary postcards. Someone pointed out that it seemed as though we were addressing the authors themselves, instead of expressing thanksgiving to God for them. This was reflective of our playful postcard format. We are indeed grateful to God for these authors and their contributions to Western thought and our lives. Thanksgiving is a wonderful opportunity to thank our God for His provisions, both of food for our bodies in the form of turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy, and for soul-food, in the form of the ideas and poetry and truth handed down to us first and foremost in Scripture, and secondarily in the works of men gifted by God to create and write good things we enjoy.
May the Lord bless your Thanksgiving, and especially bless the relationships in your life,
CEO, Roman Roads Press
“There is something about saying, ‘We always do this,’ which helps keep the years together. Time is such an elusive thing that if we keep on meaning to do something interesting, but never do it, year would follow year with no special thoughtfulness being expressed in making gifts, surprises, charming table settings, and familiar, favorite food. Tradition is a good gift intended to guard the best gifts.”
Don’t throw out your turkey carcass!
A turkey carcass is “chef’s gold” waiting to happen!
Below is an excerpt of Food for Thought, by French pastor and chef Francis Foucachon. The book is composed of two parts. The first part is a theology of food and culture from a pastoral point of view, and the second part is recipes from Chef Foucachon’s past restaurant, West of Paris.