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Thanksgiving Dinner as Communion

Thanksgiving is on our minds this week here in the USA and many of us look forward to it as a time with family. I have not been one to enjoy any holidays since I grew up and began to work up a sweat and develop painful muscles to celebrate them. I also struggle with how to fit into other people’s kitchens and how to make food that will “pass” other cooks’ high standards! Pies are big at holidays, and I don’t do pies well.

Flanders, Netherlands

Flanders, Netherlands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But this year will be different.

Last month another of Henri JM Nouwen’s books, ‘Life of the Beloved’ transformed my rough and negative thinking about Thanksgiving dinner. Here are the words that spoke to me.

“Isn’t a meal together the most beautiful expression of our desire to be given to each other in our brokenness? The table, the food, the drinks, the words,the stories: Are they not the most intimate ways in which we not only express the desire to give our lives to each other, but also to do this in actuality? I very much like the expression “breaking bread together,” because there the breaking and the giving are so clearly one. When we eat together we are vulnerable to one another. Around the table we can’t wear weapons of any sort. Eating from the same bread and drinking from the same cup call us to live in unity and peace. This becomes very visible when there is a conflict. Then eating and drinking together can become a truly threatening even; then the meal can become the most dreaded moment of the day. We all know about painful silences during dinner. They contrast starkly with the intimacy of eating and drinking together, and the distance between those sitting around the table can be unbearable.

On the other hand, a really peaceful and joyful meal together belongs to the greatest moments of life.”

Originally, I had urged my husband to join the extended family at Thanksgiving imagining that I would just be thankful to be at home enjoying a nice Swanson’s TV Turkey dinner as I relaxed alone with our dogs, avoiding the stress and confusion of what I should be doing each and every moment of that festive day.

But, I had a paradigm change when I realized that we are a family who gets along pretty well and we have an opportunity to break bread together with three generations, modeling love and friendship to our grandchildren. This Thanksgiving won’t be about my feeling minor discomforts, but about sharing love and of course, Thanking God for all His provision!

Remarkably, my worries about what food I’ll offer this Thanksgiving have subsided. Everyone else loves this holiday and they are super cooks, so I get off easy and I’m accepting this gracefully!  I’ve concluded that most of my worries about fitting in were just a lot of insecurity, anyway. I’m too old for that!

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