With family from near and far gathered around the table this Thanksgiving, every unwanted, hot-button, emotionally-charged topic might come up.
In these moments, we have two choices. We can choose to let our emotions lead us to react without thinking, or we can allow Jesus and His peace to be our guide.
Take a moment and close your eyes. Imagine that table.
Maybe you have your wedding china set out. Perhaps you’re doing paper plates. The mashed potatoes are whipped. The gravy is smooth. Someone has to help you take the turkey out of the oven because you bought the big one this year.
As you imagine the bounty, also place the faces around the table. There are people you love and who make you laugh. There are people who you haven’t spent time with in many years.
And then there’s usually that one relative who doesn’t ever seem to have a civil word for anyone.
Our first temptation is usually to dread certain interactions. We will rehearse old hurts as if they can prepare us for a harsh word. And we will make sure to have a few zingers ready in case someone steps on our toes.
Just as we can prepare the Thanksgiving feast with attention to detail (and extra butter), we can also prepare our hearts to overflow with love and compassion.
Let’s start now by pausing and asking God to soften and mold our hearts to love people well, the way we think God wants us to.
TURKEY DAY TIP #1: Start by praying for each individual. Be honest with God about what you dread and ask Him to turn it into expectation. Is there someone who wants to show you political memes that you disagree with? Ask God to have ready questions on different topics to redirect the conversation. Is someone too persistent about wanting to know your stance on a specific issue? Ask Him to help you listen with spiritual ears about why these things are important to that person.
TURKEY DAY TIP #2: Create a safe space. Behind every rant, bruising comment, and heated argument are real hearts of real people who are hurting and in need of Jesus. With His Holy Spirit to guide us, we can be their safe place to land. We can be the balm to someone who has had a really difficult year. We can be the neutral bridge of understanding. We can be like Jesus at a table full of people who were made in His image.
TURKEY DAY TIP #3: Above all, ask God to keep your spiritual ears attuned for opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
Let’s eat turkey and not act like one, even when we are really, really, REALLY tempted. Let’s hear those around us with ears that distinguish hurt from an attack. Let’s speak words laced with love.
Many will be blessed with people around our tables who are not usually there. For every ingredient you put on your shopping list, lift up one of these precious souls to God and ask how you can love them this Thanksgiving.