As the holidays approach, it's a stressful time for parents watching kiddos open presents in front of gift-givers. We stand with fake smiles, praying for a miracle, remembering that we forgot to go over “gift-giving etiquette” with our little one.
Still, I was pleasantly surprised years ago when my six-year-old son opened a gift from grandma that she had wrapped inside a saltines cracker box. When his very concrete thinking mind saw the box, he looked up, hugged it and exclaimed, “Thank you, grandma, I love crackers!”
Fortunately, he also loved the actual present inside even more, and this daddy was proud of a son who knew how to be thankful.
This Thanksgiving season many will gather around tables of food, will watch some football and relish the thought of the tryptophan-induced nap, compliments of Tom Turkey. But, for many, that’s not the only thoughts we have about the holiday.
There is also fear and anxiety.
You see, there will be people you see that have made life difficult, and even if we only see them once a year, it's still too much. Or, maybe it’s the other way around. Perhaps we are on the outs with someone else and can’t seem to find a way back into good standing.
It’s sad, but sometimes these family gatherings are more painful than pleasant.
How do we go about the hard work of preparing our heart, and making our life ready to receive those that probably have not done a single thing to earn trust, forgiveness, or even an opportunity to step back into our lives?
Believe it or not, there is a way!
I’m thinking of two brothers from the book of Genesis: Jacob and Esau. These two had cornered the market on dysfunction.
Jacob stole everything from his brother, literally down to the birthright. He did so through manipulation and deceit. His brother Esau was so mad he pledged to murder him. So, mom sent Jacob on the field trip to get out of town for several years (thank God for moms).
Some 14 years later, Jacob returns home. He now has a family, a career and all kinds of possessions. He also has a very justifiable fear that his homecoming may be a killer, literally. After a night of tossing, turning and wrestling with God, Jacob heads up the road, and there is Esau to greet him -- with a band of soldiers -- things don’t look good.
That is until Esau runs too and embraces him, welcoming him home with love.
What in the world happened? How did Esau move from "I’m going to murder you" to "I’m so glad you’re home"?
We don’t know what happened in the life of Esau, but one response may give a clue. Jacob tried to divert his brother's wrath by sending gifts ahead of him, but Esau refuses them:
But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.” Genesis 33:9
Somewhere in the last 14 years of being swindled out of everything, Esau became content with what he had and thankful. Because of that, he didn’t need an apology, and he didn’t demand justice. He just found his healing and released himself from prison.
Sometimes the situation will never be ‘made right,’ and very often offenders never find a sense of remorse. But, that does not stop you from finding the freedom of forgiveness.
And, for Esau, that path to freedom ran right through contentment and thankfulness.
May this Thanksgiving season be marked by your own freedom. Let those other debts and debtors go as you realize: “I have enough.”
Andy Addis is lead pastor at CrossPoint Church