by Joanie Butman
This week I’ve been composing a list of “do not mention” topics for my husband as prep for the Thanksgiving dinner. The list grows longer each year and is now lengthier than Santa’s naughty and nice list. It’s amazing that despite my censorship, he still finds plenty to talk about. In regards to the Thanksgiving dinner conversation, neutrality is always the wise choice.
While eating too much stuffing may give you indigestion, stuffing the temptation to engage in charged conversations never has negative ramifications. Given the recent contentious elections and the divisive climate of our nation, Thanksgiving is a perfect time to choose to remember Paul’s advice to the Ephesians, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Stifling your opinions for the sake of a peaceful holiday is one thing. Anyone can be Switzerland for a day. However, I wouldn’t recommend stuffing as a long-term avoidance technique. I speak from experience that too much of that kind of stuffing will give you more agita than binging on the type you smother with gravy.
Whatever we stuff inside has got to go somewhere. It's similar to wearing Spanx. You can compress your belly fat, but it will pop up elsewhere. So, it's just a matter of where you want it to surface - preferably someplace easily concealed like your knees under a long skirt. And if you stay in Spanx long enough, you feel like you're slowly suffocating. In much the same way, whatever issues we cram inside can be just as smothering. Camouflaging them works for only so long. They will eventually accumulate, building resentments until there's spontaneous combustion over a seemingly unrelated matter. Based on many holiday stories I've heard, it's not an uncommon event at the Thanksgiving table because every family has their own recipe for dysfunction, and there's always plenty of stuffing going on during family gatherings - probably has been for years.
The most important warning as to the danger of too much stuffing is that it prevents you from appreciating the many blessings of life. Think about it. If you eat too much stuffing, you're too full to appreciate the rest of the meal. Even worse, you'll miss out on the best part - dessert! Similarly, gratitude is a difficult attitude to adopt if you're simmering over unresolved issues. A good therapist can help, but the most effective treatment I've discovered for a stuffing malady is Jesus. He can heal anything we choose to surrender and miraculously transform our rancid stuffing into an unexpectedly sweet dessert. Only He "can turn a mess into a message, a test into a testimony, a trial into a triumph, a victim into a victor." He is the ultimate alchemist. Keep in mind, it's not enough to just get rid of unhealthy stuffing, you have to fill the void with something else so it doesn't try to reestablish residency.
Gratitude is an excellent replacement and a proven antidote for negative thinking. Everyone can find something (regardless of how small) to be thankful for. It might be as simple as divine intervention in not offending anyone at the Thanksgiving table. My husband may be infamous for his off-the-cuff comments, but I will be armed with my own list of reminders and Paul’s words written on my palm.
May you all choose to fill your plates with a hefty serving of gratitude today and every day because, as Paul also exhorts, "rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thes 5:18)
Will leave you with one last thought to ponder this week…