It’s Thanksgiving and I’m in the kitchen turning dials, trying so hard to get everything just right. If only I spoke of solely the oven dial—but who can forget the relational dials, the conversational dials, the quick repentance dials, and even the simple act of dialing the number just to extend the invitation. At the holidays it seems there are far too many complex layered dials to turn and crank and adjust just so. It can be downright exhausting.
My brilliant neighbor owns and operates her own medical testing lab. (STEM girl, whoop!) At the very beginning of the Covid crisis—you remember, the days when we didn’t understand the first thing about transmission—one of her employees began running a high fever. My neighbor sent her entire staff home and undertook the painstaking process of sanitizing and deep cleaning the lab all by herself. Trouble was, this wasn’t the chemistry lab from our high school recollections. My friend sanitized every piece of precision equipment, each complex apparatus with countless knobs, dials, levers, and pulls. I can still see my sweet neighbor’s face as she described the nature of what had to be done. It was all-encompassing. She had to find and scour every crevice for the protection of all involved.
I’m hard-pressed to think of anything that sounds more like Jesus to me.
Her actions remind me of the Christ who won’t stand for a quick wipe down of our hearts. His holiness and utter righteousness can’t give it a once over and call it a day—his beloved are at stake. For any particle of sin left on us or in us makes us unacceptable to his Father, the God of all cellular levels, protons, elements, and even viruses. Christ’s work of reconciling our fallenness to the Father had to be so all-encompassing that not one particle of our souls would be left untouched by his redemption. This Thanksgiving, it’s this persistent pursuit and committed love that grants us the energy to turn the necessary dials to warm the oven and cool the room.
Be Amazed at Persistent Pursuit
I’m guessing you haven’t had to live through too many family holidays to realize we have nothing to contribute to our own redemption except for our sin (Rom. 5:19). Redemptive work had to be done entirely for us, by the only One who could—Jesus himself, through his substitutionary death on the cross. But once redeemed, the Triune God who calls for our holiness had the power to make all things new all at once—but he didn’t. Furthermore, he doesn’t remove sin fully from us in this life. (Though wouldn’t THAT be great!) Instead, in remarkable and often dramatic fashion, he chooses the painstaking work of finding every tiny piece of every dial. He chooses to work through time and circumstance and family and community to reveal the dirt on the machinery where we thought things were just plugging along. He insists on keeping us safe by cleansing every nook and cranny of our hearts and our actions. What kind of insistent, persistent love is this? I’m overwhelmed with gratitude when I consider the committed love demonstrated in his sanctifying pursuit.
Be Awed by Committed Love
My neighbor deep-cleaned her lab out of one solitary motivation: love for her staff. She didn’t want a single worker to contract Covid. Jesus is just like that, but with the far deadlier pandemic of our sin. Following the passage in Romans 11:17-24 describing the grafting in of the Gentiles, Paul anticipates and immediately rebukes the Gentiles’ judgment toward the Jewish people lest they be quick or arrogant to find themselves worthy and the Jews cast off. Ending this section Paul breaks into worship—he has again gazed on the depths of his own unrighteousness and the marvel of his salvation. “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. Oh the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways” (Rom. 11:32-33)! Just like Paul, reflecting on God’s committed love makes me break into worship. And this correct orientation of my heart grants me the energy to long for all people to worship him, including those around our Thanksgiving table.
As we turn our dials this Thanksgiving, may we remember the one who turned all the dials for us. Who cared so much that he committed to staying in the lab all alone and doing what needed to be done, no matter the cost to himself. Because he gets into the specifics, it means we safely can too. How does Christ’s work impact how we respond to bickering at Thanksgiving? What does his nudge do when togetherness brings up bitter memories? How does it comfort when there’s someone missing at the table? From the grounds of remembering the amazing love and persistent pursuit of Jesus, I can then turn toward my own dials and pulleys and knobs and move them in a sacrificial fashion, with reasonable and submitted regard for myself and my desires and high regard for the needs of others in my sphere. With that energy I can speak words that are gracious and kind. I can hold joy and sadness together, yet still with hope. By fighting for a head and heart space that remembers and reflects Jesus’ completed work for me, I too can resemble both Christ and my scientist neighbor, and give of myself for the good of another.
About the Author:
Holly Mackle is the curator of the mom humor collaboration Same Here, Sisterfriend, Mostly True Tales of Misadventures in Motherhood, author of the family Advent devotional Little Hearts, Prepare Him Room, and editor at engagingmotherhood.com. She is the wife of a handsome man, mama of two flower-sneaking bitties, and a fairly decent gardener and hopefully better humorist for joegardener.com. She spends most of her free time explaining to her two young girls why their hair will not do exactly what Queen Elsa’s does.