"It is not with us as with other men whom small things can discourage,
or small discontentments cause to wish themselves at home again."
These words, spoken by William Bradford in August 1620, as the Pilgrims prepared to leave for the New World, ring as true for us 400 years later. However, in this year's Thanksgiving season, it is perhaps more challenging than others to not be discouraged. We have all faced many struggles this year, both personal and communal, that have taxed our capacity to respond with our best selves. So much remains uncertain and in flux, and if we momentarily forget that, there is the 24/7 media cycle to remind us.
I was reminded by a wise person recently that we are not a people who are besieged, but who are victorious through our identity in Jesus Christ. The Christian message of being baptized into Christ's death so that we may rise with Him is a central relational truth of the Scriptures. It remains our reality today. We are reminded by Scripture and the tradition of millennia that the uncertainties that each of us has experienced since March, and even this week, do not dictate our reality or our identity.
Nearly two thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Roman church this enduring reminder:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or danger, or sword?
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am sure that neither death nor life,
nor angels nor rulers,
nor things present northings to come,
nor powers, nor height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8: 35, 3-39 ESV)
I invite all of us to keep pushing in to what it means to daily place our identity in Christ, in being sons and daughters of the King. Our children are and will be given many alternate identities to choose from in their lives. It is up to us, their 'older brothers and sisters,' to help them practice now what it means to live joyfully the rest of their lives, no matter the situation. What an opportunity that we have right now to do that!
As we learned through last year's reading of Rare Leadership, this is why and how it is possible to endure hardship with some measure of joy and peace. This is how we can resist being swayed by the chaos that our culture projects on our families, school, and churches--remembering who we are and Whose we are.
For the sake of our children, and for our own sake as adults, may we continue to grow in the good work of choosing to be encouraged and to encourage others in resting in our identity in Christ. And like most things, we will experience this more deeply and joyfully the more that we do this together!