Running toward Thanksgiving
By Keri Vermeulen
Sometime in September, most of us began thinking about what Thanksgiving is going to look like – the food, the table, the invite list, the laughter, the prayers of thanks. But this year, my Thanksgiving won’t be centred around a big table with a browned, basted turkey and all the trimmings. This year, I will be desperately running, panting, heaving and sweating toward thankfulness as I run a 10 km race at the BMO Okanagan Marathon in Kelowna. It’s a lot more work than baking a pumpkin pie from scratch, and not nearly as tasty, but I have my reasons for doing something so sweaty on Thanksgiving Sunday. I want to connect deeply again with gratitude, and be reminded that none of life’s victory and abundance comes without the powerful, loving, generous say-so of God.
It was in the Spring when I first realized the uncomfortable truth that I had become a fat Christian. I’m not talking about the 25 pounds of good living I’ve added to my body since getting married two and half years ago. I’m talking about the burden of excess spiritual weight I slowly started taking on since I kind of started relying on myself to get through each day.
It’s hard to truly feel thankful from my gut when there’s not much sacrifice behind the rewards the harvest brings. Do you know what I mean? When was the last time you felt utterly, gratefully blessed, and even wowed, by the side of carrots or broccoli on your dinner plate? When you give thanks before you eat, like we do in our home, do you truly feel the miracle of those little veggies growing up from the ground and providing the nourishment and energy your body needs to navigate your work day, read another chapter in a book, make your bed, or give your family, or even strangers, love and compassion?
Perhaps we – or maybe it’s just me – occasionally lose touch with the need to truly trust God for miracles like carrots, compassion and community, relationship and reconciliation, and even the table to celebrate those things around. This Thanksgiving, I want to reconnect with gratitude by going to a place where it’s scary to trust God for what I need. I’m not an athlete, or even a remotely skilled runner. I’m a recreationist who loves to play. To take on running 10 km, without stopping, means I must trust God is running with me, that He made me for more than the easy stuff in life. I must have faith that with every hard pound of my feet, God is leading me to victory, leading me to the Thanksgiving table. Spiritual fat is burning off.
As I have been training these last few weeks (perhaps you’ve driven by me, slow jogging along the sidewalks of Langley, groaning and gasping in tongues) I have had the earbuds cranked with some of the best secular rock and roll beats known to mankind. Last week, in a desperate attempt to break the 5 km mark, I added some worship songs to the playlist. Just as I was gloriously entering the nearly heart-stopping seventh kilometre, one of those worship songs, “All the People Said Amen” (Matt Maher), came into play. “We are all the same, in need of mercy, to be forgiven and be free/ It’s all you got to lean on but thank God it’s all you need/ and all the people said amen.”
The thing about the Thanksgiving feast, just like my little 10 km run, is that to get to the finish line – or the table – we must enter a trust journey with God. That tiny seeds in the dirt will produce carrots, and weak legs will be strengthened to take us to the finish line.
The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. – Psalm 28:7