Stress Dreaming About Thanksgiving

If you’re looking for advice or wisdom on how to de-stress your life, don’t ask, I ain’t got any.

Will Ryan / 11.19.21

I‘m already stressed out about Thanksgiving. I should amend that previous statement. I’ve been stressed about Thanksgiving for months now. As the holiday approaches, my anxiety level is going sky high. 

It’s going to be my first experience cooking and hosting the gobble gobble day. Two years ago, I cooked most of the meal and then carted it to someone else’s home. This year, though, I’ll be cooking and hosting. It’s a marathon only made somewhat easier by the fact that I don’t have to worry about roasting (or frying?) a turkey; no one particularly likes it in our family.

If all else fails …

But I’m already stressing … How am I going to cook and bake everything with only one oven? When are we going to eat because the daughter usually is napping when I like to have Thanksgiving Dinner? What are we even going to do for entertainment when you can’t put out a puzzle with a two-year-old around?

Throw in the fact that I’m sort of a perfectionist when it comes to cooking and entertaining and you’ve got a recipe for me stress-dreaming doomsday scenarios, the kind where nothing is ready, everything is bad, and no one is happy (especially me).

It’s even worse when I remember Jesus’ seminal words about worrying from his Sermon on the Mount: Therefore, stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Thanks, Jesus. Now I’m not only feeling the effects of stress and worry, I’m worried about worrying because Jesus tells me not to worry! There’s a gap between knowing and doing (or not doing when it comes to things like stressing and worrying.) Jesus’ words are supposed to be comforting, the “therefore” referring to God’s providential care of us, but they end up backfiring because I feel like a failure at not worrying. His command doesn’t magically give me the ability to do what he commands so much as it shows my shortcomings. Indeed, it actually accuses me.

So, if you’re looking for advice or wisdom from me on how to de-stress your life, don’t ask, I ain’t got any. Oh sure, there are little proverbs extolling the virtues of living simply, of keeping your expectations low so you won’t be disappointed, of trusting God and God’s providence, but these really are just more things to heighten up the pressure when you inevitably fail at them, causing you to worry that much more. They are good advice as far as they go, but they inevitably fail to do that which we need them to do because the onus is squarely on our shoulders.

It seems to be an endless cycle. Wash, rinse, repeat of stress and worry even about things as seemingly trivial as how I’m going to cook a ham, two types of stuffing, rolls, Brussel sprouts (I know, I know), cranberry sauce, quinoa salad, and pies. 

Whether or not Thanksgiving is causing you to stress and worry, I’m sure there are things in your life that do. Endless cycles of worry and stress about what you have done or left undone and no matter the command or advice, the cycle won’t stop. Instead, we need someone from the outside to break it. We need someone to do something brand new. 

That’s what happens on the Cross. Gerhard Forde tells us, “The gospel is the joyous message that in Christ this new creation has already and actually broken in on us, and the promise that it will be carried to its completion.” Something new happened in Jesus’ death and resurrection and it breaks the endless cycle of trying to have perfection: the perfect life, the perfect kids, the perfect Thanksgiving Dinner. We have been given through Christ the promise of something else, the perfect life with God. It’s not something we have to do, but something given to us.

However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead as a result of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by God’s grace! And God raised us up and seated us in the heavens with Christ Jesus. (Eph 2:4-6)

So, I won’t tell you not to stress or not to worry. It would probably backfire and end up making you worry all the more (like it does me). Instead, I’ll quote a phrase I love from the 1517 podcast, Christian History Almanac: “remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true … Everything is going to be ok” — even if your Thanksgiving is a disaster.

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