Thanksgiving is undoubtedly my favorite holiday, and my soul seems to yearn year-long for that sleepy, euphoric melody of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The weeks that sweep past us after the Thanksgiving turkey is cooked, carved, and cut into–for me, at least–is a time of deep reflection. Reflection upon the trees all around me and how their colors illustrate deep holy royalty; reflection on how even the wind seems to whisper gratitude.
I am routinely captivated by the roads as they outstretch before me and how the leaves scramble from one side to the other, their color swirling dizzy by a breeze. I meditate upon the image before me and can’t help but think of the winding path of my own life, how it’s curved and twisted and somehow put me here in this time, in this moment, looking at these scenes.
It’s a wonderful thing–this meditation on all the things that’s made me human. All the heartache abounding–how beautiful it is to find myself on the other side of that which I feared I’d never overcome. All the love and joy unrelenting–how wonderful it is to look back and see all the ways I was loved.
It’s a common thread running through my life from the time I was baby to now; the changes and shifts, the things held on to and all the things let go. The memory of all the things soft and lovely and how they felt in my hands, how my trembling fingers never wanted to let them go. The flood fall recollection of the pain of letting it go after all, how those fingers seemed to have been pried open and the things I never wanted to be different were suddenly nothing more than a shade of what they had been.
I settle my mind on the grips in my fingers and the way I press good things to my palms in an attempt of security. The inability to see the future cultivates a spirit-deep fear that I will never have this again. So I clench a little tighter, memories pressed to palms, hands curled into fists and knuckles white. I have to keep this safe, I have to make sure this never changes.
In the time following my day of gratitude, I reflect humbly upon the ways I have strained for control in my life, all within my attempts to stretch toward goodness. I see clearly the wonderful things in my past and my short-sightedness tricks my soul into believing all the good that could ever be is doomed to simply be back there, in the past, never to come my way again. The beauty and happiness and peace I felt then can only be enjoyed with my neck craned and aching, my gaze peeking behind my shoulder as my feet stumble blindly on.
I pray over this sticky fear and persistent need for control and I remember a gentle reminder from Psalm 46. It’s a song of triumph, boldly declaring hope. It speaks of the steadfastness and faithfulness of God, encourages stillness in the mist of his presence, and in one sweet verse says, There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.
I feel as though I am washed in those words as if the verse itself were a river. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God. And in a moment of sweet and reverent reminder, I am told: My darling, you cannot hold a river in your hands.
In my need for tight, close-fisted control, the water still slips through my fingers.
This river, this holy and wild river, is bold and swiftly-moving. And it will never run dry. We can play in it, run with its tide. But so many of us–myself included–collect its roaring waters, put them in bottles, and set them to a shelf. We examine them, memorialize them, grieve the loss of the way it made us feel.
I shut myself inside my house made of control and put dates to bottles in a desperate attempt to hang on to every lovely thing behind me. And all the while, never trusting there’s a wide and giving river just outside my door. It’s alive and moving and if I could just let go of my bottles, if I could just release control and open my hands, I could run free within this holy river of gladness.
This season, I am daring to release and run unburdened with the God who makes me glad.