Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Mixed Feelings...

I am thankful that tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a day we've set aside for intentional gratitude.
But it's also a day when many will still be hungry.
Many will still be homeless.
Many will still be trying to flee war torn countries and cities, seeking safety.
Many will still be mourning the death of loved ones.
Many won't be invited to table with family or friends.
Many will be lonely.
Many will be hospitalized.
Many will be in prison.
Many will be unemployed.
Many will have to work in stores, selling people things we don't need.
Many will struggle to find reasons to be thankful.

I am grateful for the ability, the freedom, the finances, and the opportunity to go to the supermarket today to get food for my family.

I am grateful for the ability and the opportunity to donate money so that others can eat, not only tomorrow but also other days as well.

I am grateful for the bounty at the Loaves and Fishes pantry, a place where those who aren't able to provide for all of their needs can receive help.

I am grateful for the many people who are working to create systems and programs that will solve the problems that cause such disparity and poverty.

I am grateful that my daughter is home from college for the next few days.
I am grateful that my son will make time to hang out with us between visits with his friends this weekend.

I am grateful for the friend who sent me her sermon - with difficult but necessary words that put Thanksgiving in perspective. That the meal we will enjoy tomorrow harkens back to that first Thanksgiving, after which began the slaughter and the displacement of the native peoples that lived on this continent. That we ought to be aware of our history and that we ought to be working to repair broken relationships with the broken people around us, to allow ourselves to be broken for the sake of healing and reconciliation.

I am grateful for this piece by Tim Wise and how directly it speaks to the near impossibility of talking to some people about racism.

I am grateful that I got to hear TaNehisi Coates speak at Davidson College last week. His book, Between The World and Me, is one of the most important books I've read in the last five to ten years. His perspective on race and racism infuriated me; his perspective on the beauty and strength of African-American people encouraged me; and his reading of the history of slavery and injustice in this country enlightened me. It wasn't an easy read. It wasn't a fun read. It was a weighty read. A sobering read.

I am grateful for the challenges of seminary - the questioning of my ideas, the questioning of my integrity, the requests that I cannot grant, the requests that I will not even entertain.

I am grateful for the realization that in seminary, in my classes, in my small groups, in my exchanges with other students, fear, pain, sadness and woundedness are evident. Even though I hate having that fear and pain directed at me, I am grateful for their vulnerability. And for my own. I am grateful that our mutual transparency provides us with chances to move together towards healing, with the goal of becoming wounded healers.

I am grateful because these exchanges force me to see the humanity, the fragility, the brokenness, the lostness, the beauty, the strength, the humor, and the courage of the students around me and the professors in front of me - and also in myself.

I am grateful for the conversations that I have had with family, friends and pastors about the exchanges I have had at seminary. I am grateful for the wisdom and advice I have received on how to deal with those with whom I may disagree. If I am going to be a pastor, I need to learn to deal with those who don't believe as I do, who don't want to hear what I think, and who have no problem with telling me to keep my opinions to myself. In truth, I have to learn to deal with those issues and situations even if I never become a pastor. Perhaps I should have learned all this in the first forty-nine and a half years of my life - but I have to believe that it's better to figure it out now than five years from now or ten years from now.

I am grateful for the students in my class who are teaching me to think, speak, and act courageously, opposition and criticism notwithstanding.

I am grateful for the lessons I am learning beyond the classroom -
It's okay to say "no." No explanation necessary.
It's okay to speak my mind. No explanation necessary.
It's okay to ask questions. It's okay to answer questions.
It's okay to be wrong - as long as I am willing to be corrected.
It's more than okay - it is my right.
It is everyone's right to speak, to listen, to learn, and to be wrong.

I am grateful for these early lessons that have nothing to do with either class I'm taking,
but have everything to do with listening to the still, small voice that assures me that
all shall be well and all is already well.
The voice that reminds me to trust that all things, even difficult things, work together for good.
That none of this is a surprise to the God who called me into this next phase of my life journey.
That nothing and no one can separate me from the love of God.
That every lesson is a blessing.
That silence is no longer an option.
That I have nothing and no one to fear.

But I have mixed feelings.
I am grateful and sorrowful.
I am hopeful and discouraged.
I am frustrated and excited.
I am prayerful and skeptical.
I am feeling mixed up.
Feeling human.
Feeling grateful.

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