Wide Receiver

Wide ReceiverMy dream is to be a wide receiver.

Now, before you start trying to picture giant men in shoulder pads and helmets tackling my five-foot tall frame, let me explain.

This is the season of turkey and trimmings, loosened belts and football games. It’s also a time to slow down and do some thinking, so that’s just what I’m doing. (The thinking part, not the football part!)

This week in American homes all over, families will peek at each other around mounds of food and rehearse the “I am thankful for…” list:

“I am thankful for my good health.”
“I am thankful for my new bike.”
“I am thankful we can all be together.”

This is good. This is right.

But is it enough?

You see, there is this undeniable reality that so much about life is completely beyond our control, and things often don’t go as we had hoped.

My nephew Jake is a beautiful boy, with blond hair and huge brown eyes that would put any puppy dog to shame. His laugh is sudden, unexpected, and infectious.  He taught himself to read before he started kindergarten. And he has autism. This was not in my sister and brother-in-law’s plans for their firstborn son. But I have watched them navigate Jake’s diagnosis with strength and grace. To them, knowing their beautiful, brilliant boy will never be “normal” is a dream-changer rather than a dream-killer. They recognize that Jake still has a future and a hope. In fact, it’s the one God has known about all along.

Our long-time friends just buried their youngest child, a stillborn baby girl. They named her Talitha, after the child Jesus raised from the dead. Even in unimaginable grief, they are choosing to remember the truth that life doesn’t end here.

Two of my friends are living with stage four cancer. They both have husbands, young kids, and broad smiles that come from a place of joy that can’t be touched by circumstances.

And this will be our second Thanksgiving without my mom at the table. From the time they found her cancer until she stepped into eternity two and a half years later, she said frequently, “God could heal me, but I am trusting in the Healer, not in the healing.” Her faith was not shaken by the possibility that her life story had fewer chapters than she had planned.

And so we learn, breath by ragged tear-choked breath, to “give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”. And, oh, it tears the soul to have the layers of security pulled away.

This is not the cozy fireside image of Thanksgiving I prefer. This side of God is uncomfortable. He is huge, wild, and frankly a little scary at times. He is deep as an ocean, and wide, so wide that we can’t see from one end of his plans for us to the other.

But, as baby Talitha’s mom told me, “God is still good, always good.”

Paul wrote, “And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is.” Everything that happens here in this life, every beautiful, breathtaking, dream-changing, heartbreaking bit of it is rooted in a love so enormous we can’t begin to comprehend it.

And that is something I want to receive with arms open wide.

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