Taken at face value, I was looking square in the face of two people who are at risk of being real turkeys this Turkey Day – which is actually meant to be all about giving thanks, not eating turkey. And being of a melancholy persuasion, my soul-searching gave me pause to consider just what I would be feasting on this Thanksgiving – the goodness of God and multiplied blessings available to me, or the raw materials for someone’s septic system? Can you see how this might dim one’s gastronomic goals?
Of course, feasting has historically been itself a gift from God to people. Throughout the Bible, God insists we take moments to focus on Him and feast as a form of reflection on what God has done for us and as a foreshadowing of what He will do for us in the future. So sitting down to a Thanksgiving Feast, when done from the proper perspective, can absolutely be a literal object lesson in the take-and-give of Thanksgiving.
Ultimately, what really gobbled my goat and gnawed at my gullet, was seeing what I could, if not careful, let not only my Thanksgiving Day, but every day become – “all about the food.” I have three pets: one dog and two cats, plus my son’s dog is staying with us, so I get what a life that is “all about the food” looks like, and it scares me to death to think I could abdicate what makes me human – my ability to think from which flows the responsibility to thank.
When I focus on “the food” – the “stuff” I stuff my stomach with – whether consumable via my digestive system or simply some other materialistic “appetizer” meant to satiate some hunger of my heart, I become something less than fully human. To be human is to be given the gift of reason – that ability to exercise rational thought and with it the capacity for reflection. There is no other creature on the planet vested with this attribute. The Bible describes it as being created in the image of God.
Thanksgiving, even as a human construct – perhaps especially as a human construct – must be about infinitely more than “the food.” We must come to the table with more going on in our hearts and minds than what is going on the brain of a dog on the way to the dish.
So yes, I will enjoy my Thanksgiving turkey today. I will enjoy it not only because it tastes delicious, but because unlike any other creature on this planet, I have been graced with the ability to appreciate the miracle of meat making its way to my table: a life given for my life, the means made available by way of employment opportunities and God-given abilities, the sacrifice of others to share hospitality and serve my needs, the gift of life that lets me give thanks and partake today. I will eat turkey, but I will feast on God’s abundant favor and hopefully “get fat” on faith and the unique human characteristics that make it possible; because, as they say, “You are what you eat.” I pray my time at the table reflects the image of God rather than the instincts of my dog.