We'll have Pilgrims on our table on Thanksgiving. Nice ceramic Pilgrims. They won't eat.
We'll also have pilgrims at our table. Living, breathing pilgrims. And, man, will they eat!
We're all pilgrims, whether we know it or not. No, not the kind that wear black hats, white bonnets or big buckles. But the kind William Bradford, the governor of the Plymouth colony, wrote about.
As the intrepid Mayflower travelers were preparing to leave England and head into the unknown, Bradford wrote about what was in their hearts. "They knew they were pilgrims, and looked not so much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to the heavens, their dearest country, and quieted their spirits."
They knew they were pilgrims. When you know that's who you are, it changes everything. Centuries before Plymouth, Simon Peter wrote to some first-generation Christians whose faith had cost them their homes and would ultimately cost some their lives. He called them "dear friends...temporary residents and foreigners" (1 Peter 2:11). In other words - as a classic old hymn says, "This world is not my home, I'm just a-passing through."
Too often, I forget where Home is. It's not this cosmic tennis ball we live on. This is just Hotel Earth. I stay in lots of hotels. But even if I'm staying for an extended time, I don't call a moving company to bring all my furniture. It's only a hotel . Why would I pile everything into a place that's only where I'm staying for a little while? It isn't Home. God says, "Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philippians 3:20).
So what? Well, I ought to be living here for what's going to matter there! Like doing whatever I have to do to tell people I know about my Jesus - so they can be there with us some day. And intentionally building a heart for Jesus into my children and grandchildren. And divesting my earth-stuff to invest in lives and causes that will last a hundred million years and beyond. And stuffing my stubborn self-will to be "filled with the knowledge of His will" (Colossians 1:9).
A few weeks ago I stood where those Mayflower Pilgrims buried half of their loved ones in their first months in this new land. I recalled all they left and all they lost. But as Bradford writes, "They committed themselves to the will of God resolved to proceed." Because they knew this was all temporary. They held all they had - and even those they loved - loosely, knowing that they would all eventually be Home. When you know you're just a pilgrim, you can have nothing and still have everything that matters.
Thanksgiving seems like just the right time to look at what I have and say out loud, "Earth stuff. Just earth stuff." To say thank you to God for those blessings - while loosening my grip on them to let God do whatever He wants with them. To be willing to leave where I'm comfortable to go wherever He leads. Even if it's a little ship, a big ocean and an unknown destination.