Thursday, November 5, 2015

Look Up and Pour Out: The Beginning of Thanksgiving

by Danetta Kellar @DanettaKellar

We establish who we are based upon so many things. Who our parents were, where we grew up, what job we have, what relationships we have. 

Thanksgiving, or lack of, often flows directly out of these foundational aspects of our identity. 

In Hannah’s world, the identity of a woman was based on whether or not she was a mother. Bearing a child, even better a son, was paramount to womanhood and fulfillment. (You can read her story in 1 Samuel 1 and 2.)

Hannah was a good woman. (1:7) If good deeds could have established the foundation of her life, she would have stood sure.

Hannah was married to a good man, a faithful man, who loved her. (1:5) If having a successful relationship could have brought her fulfillment, she would have been happy indeed.

Hannah had her needs provided abundantly. (1:5) If having material needs met could have established Hannah’s peace of mind, then she would have slept peacefully night after night.

But despite all of these good things in Hannah’s life, her heart was bitter. She did not feel that her life was secure, peaceful, or fulfilled. She was barren, and the one thing she desired most eluded her, always beyond her grasp.

In bitterness of soul she wept and prayed. She sorrowed so greatly before the Lord that the priest who observed her accused her of drunkenness.

She was intoxicated with sorrow deep in her soul.

Have you ever been intoxicated with sorrow deep in your soul? Mindless, senseless, given over to the grief that threatened to swallow you up, along with all your hopes and dreams?

In this inebriated place thanksgiving is far from our minds. The season of Thanksgiving may seem a mockery in the face of such sorrow and longing.

But there is another foundation on which to build our lives. There is a solid, sure place that anchors us more certainly than the family from which we came, the money we possess, the relationships we have or do not have.

There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.
(Hannah’s Prayer of Thanksgiving from 1 Samuel 2:2)

Hannah had heard the stories all her life. The stories of God the Rock, the One who sent the chariots of Pharaoh into the sea, the One who brought water from a rock and cared for His people with food from the skies. 

But she had never really felt that Rock under her feet, holding her steady.

She had been searching for toe-holds on the things of life that fill with joy, things that aren’t just things, like baby toes and little fat fingers gripping yours tight like a vise. Desires of the heart that run so deep you can hear them thrumming through your veins like your own blood. 

That is what Hannah was trying to stand on on the eve of her Thanksgiving season so long ago. And she was falling, collapsing.

That’s when she remembered. She remembered the stories of the Rock. She remembered that somewhere in her search someone had told the stories, the tales of Hope in the landslide.

And she looked up and poured out her soul to God.

Look up and pour out.

Sometimes the very seed beginning of thanksgiving is to look up and pour out. In the midst of the stress, the middle of the mess, right there in the middle of I-don’t-care-what-people-may-think-of-me, look up and pour out your soul.

There he will give you the strength to face those around you.

Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, “How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine.”
“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied. “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”
Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” (1:15-17)

There he will grant you the hope you need to take care of yourself and continue on your way.

Then she went on her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast. (1:18b)

There you will find the beginning of thanksgiving.

It was only after Hannah looked up and poured out that the floods of thanksgiving began in her soul. It was then that she discovered a new place to stand, a place called the Rock, the Rock of all the generations. God the Rock, the sure and certain foundation for all our identity, all our hopes, all our dreams.

There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. (2:2)

Look up and pour out this eve of the Thanksgiving season. Let the floods of thanksgiving begin in your soul as you pray right in the middle of the mess of life. 

Hannah’s pouring out resulted in a desire fulfilled. Ours may not. God is not a formula waiting to be manipulated just so with the exact amount of sorrow x begging = desire fulfilled. But what we can know, what Hannah suspected and came to know for certain, is that our God is the anchor of our souls, the sure foundation for our hopes and dreams, the One who makes us stand without falling. He is the One who lifts our heads high above our enemies and shows us the way forward through our brokenness. He is our Rock, who is like Him?

Hannah learned that true thanksgiving flows not out of who we are, but who God is. 
And He is the Rock that will never be shaken.

Look up to the Rock, pour out your soul to Him today. Thanksgiving is coming.

What do you think, should we pour our souls out to God in the midst of our darkest moments? How has this lead to thanksgiving in your own life? Take a minute to join the conversation!


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