Being a mother feels like living in a perpetual state of guilt. Whatever I’m doing, I feel guilty for the other things I’m not doing, and I just rotate which thing(s) I feel guilty for not doing.
I’m at work. Guilt for not being with my child. I’m with my child. Guilt for not making progress on my work tasks. I’m resting. Guilt for not exercising more. I’m exercising. Guilt for not being with my child or making progress at work or resting. It’s a vicious cycle where nobody wins.
And now it’s Thanksgiving. There are meals to be prepared and cakes to be baked and special outfits for school plays to be packed and decorations to be made. And if we are honest about all of the hats we mommy ministers wear, let’s add to that list sermons to be prepared and preached, shut-ins to be visited, newsletters to be written, community events to be attended, and meaningful worship services to be planned.
More things we are doing. More things we are not doing. More guilt.
As caretakers and spiritual guides, so much of our time is spent giving of ourselves to others. This work is exhausting and keeps the harsh reality of the world in front of our faces all of the time. We know full well about the realities of this world. Racism. Classism. Sexism. Hatred. Abuse. Betrayal. Injustice.
So how do we turn all of that off and participate in Thanksgiving? Sitting around a table and listing the things I’m for which I’m grateful feels a little forced. Really, I just want to bind up my wounds and cling to hope.
But maybe it’s not forced. And maybe it’s okay, even holy, to bring all of that with me to the Thanksgiving table. Maybe it’s the road to healing. As we give thanks, we remember how God has been at work in our lives. Yes, we still know about the terrible realities of the world, but we see the good alongside of it, bringing the entire picture into view. We remember when God has delivered us from captivity, guided us through and out of the wilderness, and blessed us with a holy communion of friends and family.
And when I was least expecting it, I caught a glimpse of hope to which I could cling.
I was making decorations with my son, and he asked if we could give them to our friends. Making decorations was his reward for having a good day at school, and instead of keeping them for himself, he wanted to share them with others, because he thought it would make them happy. He wanted to take what was given to him as a blessing and bless others. Lord, may it be so with your church also.
We mommy ministers spend all day every day trying to heal the world, and it seems unending at times. And then we come home and care for our families. And with what’s left, we care for ourselves. It’s like we are trying to finish a song with an unresolved note, and no matter how many times we play through the song, it just doesn’t feel “over” at the end.
But there is hope in the world because love bursts forth from tiny places. Even though injustice and suffering linger, God is faithfully at work in the world, bringing about reconciliation and healing, providing for those in need, raising up prophetic voices to speak against injustice, and empowering seemingly little voices to speak big words of love.
Though I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders this season, I am grateful. I am grateful to be part of a church family with social justice in its DNA. I am grateful to share this season with beloved friends and family. I am grateful for my ministry and the opportunity to empower young people to acquire knowledge, in pursuit of wisdom, to serve the world.
My part feels small a lot of the time. Maybe yours does, too. But together, we are doing great things. Holy things.
May this Thanksgiving be a time of respite and encouragement for you, a reminder that God is faithfully working through you and around you, and a reminder that you are not alone. You are part of a global community of sisters and brothers working together for peace and justice.
And every time someone enacts love, no matter how small it seems, may we give thanks, for this is the very hope of our lives and our work and our identities in Christ: that God is faithfully at work making all things new. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Courtney Pace Lyons is mother to Stanley and works at Baylor University, where she earned her PhD.