“Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18)
Each year as Thanksgiving approaches, I tend to recall the period of my “conversion.” It isn’t that I didn’t understand Christ came as our Savior, nor that my baptism mattered. Intellectually, I had made that connection. Yet as a younger man, I just didn’t trust that Christ’s mission could possibly, truly include me – no matter what anyone said. Troubles within my family of origin, heartbreaks that too often come with life, and what I saw and experienced as a police officer had hardened my heart. Some inroads had been made into my life where seeds were planted for future spiritual growth, but in both word and deed, I fought the Spirit the entire way. As often happens in such a life, I became more isolated and felt empty. Many of the choices I made only served to hurt myself and others.
Fortunately, Christ reaches out to us even when we can’t see him; or even when we turn from him in our lives. When it seemed my life was crashing down around me, I discovered signs of his love and faithfulness, not only through the promises of my own baptism, but through those faithful and baptized Christians he had already sent into my life. Their example, guidance, prayers, and support showed me a new way to live. I became ready to trust in their testimony about Christ’s grace at work in their own lives, and as I delved into God’s word, I heard a message of love I hadn’t previously been ready to fully grasp. In forgiveness, I found joy, and my life began to reflect it.
One day when I had a flat, I was forced to change the tire in a heavy, nearly freezing rain. My fingers got stiff, and as I fumbled, began to bleed. Still, I caught myself singing a song of praise based upon Habakkuk’s own trust and joy. This surprised me for, only a few month’s earlier, other words would have certainly flowed from my mouth but no longer. My heart knew that my difficulties were a passing thing, and God’s love endures forever. Even in that moment, my heart found cause to trust Christ, remember the signs of his love active in my life, and give thanks for his protection and care.
Just as the great Psalm of praise, Psalm 113, is book-ended by the words “Praise the Lord”, I came to understand that so my life should be. For Christ is with us always, and in every moment (not just November or when times are good), he is worthy of our trust, praise and thanks.
Blessed Thanksgiving to you and yours,
The above pastoral letter was originally published in Messiah Lutheran Church and School’s newsletter, The Messenger (November 2011 edition). To view the entire issue of The Messenger or to see the full calendar of events, visit: http://www.mlcas.org
Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.
© 2011 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.