Thanksgiving for The Things We’ve Lost

Thanksgiving for The Things We’ve Lost November 23, 2021

You don’t reach midlife without loss — the loss of a loved one, a friend, a job, a few more follicles each morning.

And it hits hardest during the holidays — especially on a day devoted to Thanksgiving. The empty chair at the table. The empty closet. The silent walls. “Giving thanks for what?”

This last year hasn’t been easy for anyone. We’ve lost friends and family, victims of a silent killer. We’ve also lost friends and family to the strife of division.

Mentally, we know that loss is a necessary ingredient in life, a cruel cosmic offset to every gain. Sometimes the loss is a consequence to our own ineptitude or wandering attention. Sometimes it strikes like a bolt from the electric sky that looked so far away. But sometimes, I will the loss into my life, pushing things or people away.

I’ve given up cherished things so I could move ahead financially, mentally, or spiritually. I’ve quit jobs, relocated to different towns, and found different circles of friends.

While I’m quick to thank God for the wins in life, to cheer achievement, and praise blessing, but how often do I rejoice in the things I’ve given up?

Holding On
Truth is, I tend to hold on to things pretty tightly. My money, my time, and my status are gains I’m not so eager to release. Wrestling these things from my grip can be painful. The tight clutch I have on possessions is especially exhausting. Now, after all these years, that quest for security seems almost quaint. The 401(k) I so faithfully contributed to has been crushed. The dreams of retirement to a cabin in the woods have been replaced with a shack in the suburbs. Despite my best efforts, life — and the economy — had different plans. Sometimes loss is out of our control.
Beneficial Loss

A few years ago, I sold my beloved 1956 Chevy. As the new owner loaded it up on the trailer, I watched it go down the road like a regal queen, sitting high above the traffic. A sad sight indeed. It was my first car, brimming with memories. Part of the family for more than 30 years, it wasn’t easy to give up. But, truth is, I would never be able to accumulate the money to replace the rusted floorboards and pitted chrome. The engine belched smoke, and the transmission shifted erratically. It would have taken a fortune for the restoration. So, it was time to cut my losses. I gained a spot in the garage, money in the bank, and freedom of my time.

Some other things I’ve surrendered have been done out of spiritual discipline or personal conviction. I’ve given up things that weren’t healthy for me — like too much red meat or french fries. And to protect my relationship with God, I’ve run from certain types of entertainment, turned away from destructive relationships, and won the battle over lifetime habits. These losses — and others — have produced gains in my faith. I’ve learned that it’s better to let go of those things I once held like a kite string in a storm so I can be free to pursue growth.

A new World of Thanks 
Many of our nation’s early pioneers relinquished family, fortune, status, and security when they left their homes in Europe. Their immediate return was uncertainty in this new world, often tinged with tragedy. And still, they bowed in humble thanks. Is it possible they gave thanks for what they lost, for the things they gave up?

This month, I’ll gladly give thanks for the pumpkin pie and perfectly browned turkey. I can give thanks for the things I’ve given up, even in disobedience or out of God’s will. But can I really give thanks for the rest of the stuff, the things taken from me, lost to storms or the sands of time?

Finding the right place
Truth is, I’m at a place now where I am comfortable with who I am and with my life and future. I’ve gained love and lost it. I’ve gained friends and lost them, too. I’ve gained wisdom, only to chuck it away in one foolish act. Yet God is still finding a way to work in spite of me.

It almost seems the balance of life constantly has the freshwater pouring in, while the old stale water dribbles over the edges. And for that, I’m grateful. I wonder if this Thanksgiving I’ll finally be able to give thanks for what is no longer mine, the minutes that have ticked out of my life, so I can appreciate the remains of the day.


Photo by Wil Stewart on Unsplash

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