I hope you had a good Thanksgiving—that you found things to be thankful for. I know that a lot of people were concerned about how conversations would go around the Thanksgiving table—and feared what would happen if voices rose and arguments ensued in our increasingly divided country.
Our Thanksgiving table this year was in the outdoor children’s courtyard at St. Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church. We attended the Thanksgiving Day liturgy and shared a meal afterward with other parishioners and friends of the St. Philip’s community. It was a lovely, warm autumn day in southern Arizona, though a bit windier than normal, which was frustrating, but did not dampen the goodwill or the dialogue. Henry and I met some new-to-us people and had some good conversations with folks we’ve known a bit longer. All in all, it was a lovely day—and I don’t take that for granted.
Now, many of us are looking forward to another round of holiday table conversations—or have just been there during Chanukah, which ends today. After having most of our holiday opportunities cancelled in 2020, many of us may feel even more psychological pressure on the holidays to “go well.” As some of us look forward with dread and others with anticipation, I want to share an idea that might help us put a different spin on events and encounters during the holidays.
One of Barbara Holmes’ contributions to CAC’s 2021 Conspire conference was a talk on Thin Places. She stated that we live in a world saturated with the love of an ever-present God. Then she proposed that we can connect more closely with God not just in “peak experiences” (like Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountaintop), but also during times of testing and stress. (This connects for me with her book Crisis Contemplation, which I was honored to edit earlier this year.)
So, what if we were to approach upcoming holiday conversations as thin places? What if we choose to anticipate actually growing closer to God through these events, even if the experience is sometimes uncomfortable? What would it be like to look ahead with curiosity instead of assumptions? What if, to the best of our ability, we watch for the Spirit’s illumination and wisdom, even in the words of those whose understandings and explanations of the world are very different from ours?
I encourage you to take these questions to prayer in the days ahead. Perhaps you could choose to invite God to guide your holiday conversations in ways that reveal how even such moments are saturated with love.