It is autumn in North America. Leaves are falling. In some places, the first snows have swept through the trees and over the peaks. Crops have been harvested. It is a time of transition, and we’re only about a month a way from celebrating Thanksgiving.
Whether the big day is more about football or turkey for your family, for many of us it is sure to include a table overflowing with more food than we could possibly eat in one sitting. I’m ready for a nap just thinking about it.
As I think about what celebration and being thankful looks like for my family, I can’t help but reflect on a journey we shared for 40 days this spring.
I was getting ready to travel to Haiti for a visit with one of our sponsored children, and before the trip we ate a basic Haitian diet, ending with a celebration feast on Easter Sunday. I have done some things like this on my own before, but involving my kids was a great way to dive into a practice of simplicity together.
We spent time during our journey reading through A Place at the Table by author and pastor Chris Seay. His challenge is based in wondering what it was like for Jesus to spend 40 days fasting:
From A Place at the Table:
“Early in 2011, I was blessed to travel to the Holy Land and sit for hours just outside Jericho atop Mount Quarantania (which in Latin means “forty”), named for the 40 days Jesus fasted in preparation for His ministry.
“This mountain and its surroundings are where Jesus wandered during His days of fasting, contemplation, and temptation.
“Looking out over the wild, I was awakened to the severity of Jesus’s fast. This area provides no shelter, very little shade, no natural water source, and obviously no food.
“I imagined the almighty God of the universe staggering through this land – alone, hot, tired, and hungry.
“Why on earth would God Himself embrace a season of fasting?
“It might be because He knows some deep truths about the world and about humanity. God’s decision again and again to give up His power — from when He came to earth in the form of a crying baby, to when He fasted in the desert, to when He allowed people to torture and execute Him – teaches us something very important: The world will not be changed when we ascend to power.
“God’s kingdom will not be furthered because an evangelical Christian resides in the White House or the highest court in the land. God changes the world through humility and service. It is a subversive tactic, yet highly effective.”
I’ve got a suggestion leading up to that late-November feast-and-football Thursday: What would it look like if you spent the next month or so consuming less, so that when Thanksgiving arrives, you’ll have a renewed sense of what it is like to truly be thankful?
One of the biggest things I wrestled with during my fasting journey is that the God whose story is told in the Bible is One who cares deeply for the poor and suffering, but also embraces feasting and celebration and extravagance.
So while it might be a bit of a tease as you think about eating a more simple diet before Thanksgiving, I think it’s appropriate also think ahead to the celebration itself, which for me means pie!
One of my wife’s greatest gifts to her family and friends is pie. When she is in pie-baking mode, she has a hard time stopping at one or two. Or 8 or 10!
My wife has been known to fill more than 20 tins in a day, knowing that an extra slice of ginger-pear pie or five-apple pie is the perfect thing to brighten a guest’s day.
What one food or tradition is an essential part of Thanksgiving with your family?
Excerpt from A Place at the Table was used by permission from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group.