Giving Thanks in the Tension

“It has been a rough fall,” a friend said recently.

She is right.

Slogging through another semester. The daily grind of work, laundry, meals (repeat) slowly but inevitably eating away at sanity and precious moments like trickling water on a clay riverbank. The mundane punctuated by students chanting, protesting, marching, striking at universities. Thousands of Oklahoma kids in foster care. People sleeping in doorways in below-freezing temperatures. Loved ones in the hospital. The City of Light viciously assaulted by forces of darkness.


And then I hear piercing laughter as my own children are doubled over with self-abandoning mirth. I smile into the precious sleeping face of God’s beautiful answer to a friend’s impossible prayer. A matchless Oklahoma sunset renders the western sky a divine masterpiece in ecstatic streaks of flaming light and cloud. Old friends come to town for a long-anticipated visit. Automobile Alley lights up with walls and blocks of LED cheer that defies the night. Giggles and joyful shrieks as blades slip across the Devon ice rink and bottoms make sudden contact with the cold, damp surface.


Somehow the two sides of experience – the dark and the light – stand in such stark contrast over the holidays. Shades of shadowy gray tend to bleed away in my mind until the darkness throbs with malevolence: the eyes in the abyss bore into my soul in the image of someone else’s dead child washed up on a Greek shore. The light pierces so sharply I can hardly bear to look: the scrunched up, dimpled pink cheeks and clear blue eyes of my own sweet three-year-old laughing in the frosty morning sun.

How can these things exist side-by-side?

I must remember the already-but-not-yet of Jesus’ first and second comings. I must keep my eyes securely on his all-conquering love that did not hesitate to reach out to the lowliest of sinners. If I forget, I will be ripped apart by the tension. I will either choke on the embarrassing quantities of turkey or give myself over to the commercial orgy of Black Friday – or maybe both. Whatever numbs and distracts my crazy, fractured heart.

I find it is only by setting my mind firmly on Christ that I can breathe deep and give thanks with a heart at peace. He can fix all this. His mercies are new every morning and – thank God! – He will come again in glory. With Him as my lens I can face the darkness without despair and embrace the gifts without hedging.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thess. 5:16-18


Alison Buxton