The Wilderness of Thanksgiving
By Tim Tron
As we passed along the rocky mountain trail, we quickly found ourselves diving deeper into the abyss of wilderness. The foliage, brilliant in a multitude of colors, was stunning when compared to the azure sky above, their heavenly backdrop. Gripping my walking staff tighter, we slowly descended momentarily into the gorge before we began our ascent. There was so much to take in. It was as if one’s senses were on fire. The air was crisp, and the trees rustled above from the gentle breeze – life couldn’t be more alive than this. Finding the next step, my eye caught a glimpse of a bright blue object lying on the ground – a stark contrast to the forest’s colors of flames that surrounded us. It was as if a piece of the sky had fallen to earth and landed before me. The tiny BluJay’s feather stood so out of place that it caused me to stop for a moment and wonder how it might have come to be. The rest of my party kept moving, so I pressed on – time was of the essence.
That was just the beginning of the journey.
They say that when a person leaves home, they can never return. This departure is in reference to one moving away, of course, and not just an afternoon errand. Many long years ago, standing on the weathered porch of my paternal grandparent’s farmhouse on the edge of New Harmony, my cousins and me, most under the tender age of ten at the time, were reflecting upon the future. Someone mentioned how one of our uncles never seemed to visit. A tiny girl’s voice spoke up, saying, “Yeah, it’s like that, you know. Once they move away, they never come back.”
We all stood in silence for a moment contemplating her words. Even at that tender age, my heart felt terrible at the thought of ever leaving that utopia on the edge of the universe. Even then, we children knew that tiny corner of southern Indiana, on the banks of the Wabash River, was a special place. It was an age of innocence, an age of discovery. Yet, it was the homestead of several generations that had fought hard to find a foothold in a country that wasn’t initially their own. Once they found it, they forsake all to preserve their spot. But with it came a cost of their past that would forever haunt those to come.
All of that history was seemingly embedded in our hearts to the point that it became a thought that plagued us in our sleep, “What could ever make you want to leave.” It felt so wrong to go away and never return, as if you would be turning your back on those you loved, leaving all behind, and for what? A sudden pang of hurt burdened my heart, so much so that it made me say out loud to that tiny congregation, “I’m never leaving.”
Before the words had barely escaped my lips, my slightly older but much wiser cousin, David Paul, whom we called Deep for short, replied with one of his most prophetic statements ever, “Yes, you will. You’re gonna leave, and you’re never gonna come back.”
I remember looking at him in horror like he had just broken one of the most unspoken solemn vows one could ever make. I was hoping he was kidding, but his face told a different story. Of course, we instantly began to argue the point, but somewhere in my heart, I was afraid he might be right. It was as if Deep had made a dare – daring me to leave, hoping that I never would.
Sometimes the unspoken words seem to haunt us most. Sometimes our destiny happens before we realize anything has changed. For some, it is terminal. For others, it is as if life has swept you up into a whirlwind, and before you know it, you are placed somewhere far, far away from home. Somehow, that describes my life’s journey. Sadly, in some aspects, I would leave as Deep had dared, but not before my heart would be broken.
But there would be many others that would leave as well.
Mary Salome watched with loving eyes as her husband, Zebedee, talked about the family’s fishing business over the evening meal with their sons. The lamp lights gave the room a mellow ambiance that spoke softly to her heart. She listened as her husband explained in soft tones how the day following, they would plan to work on mending the nets after they had their hired men carry their night’s work to market. She loved how her little boys had grown into strong, outspoken young men. Knowing they were pursuing the family trade made her heart warm and proud. But, she couldn’t know then that the following day, her heart’s pride and joy would be called away. She would fall to her knees and weep when Zebedee returned home alone and shared how John and James had been called to serve by the man from Galilee, a carpenter named Jesus of Nazareth. Those little boys would never return home the same men. They, along with their family and the rest of the world, would be forever changed.
The Bible more than once tells of a person or people that are called or forced to leave their comfortable life and go off into the unknown, the proverbial wilderness. In some instances, it literally was the wilderness. Abraham left Haran for Canaan at God’s command. God sent the Israelites out of Egypt, where they would eventually wander in the desert for 40 years. Although they were freed from physical bondage, it was because of their hardened hearts that they were required to wander so long in the desert. David would be called out of the field by Samuel to be anointed king of Israel, forever changing the course of his life. He was the ruddy one, the one nobody expected to be called. Even Jesus, after being baptized by John in the Jordan river, was immediately taken into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit, where he prepared for his ministry by fasting for forty days. He too would be changed, preparing him for what would become the beginning of his life’s work, glorifying God, sharing his gospel, and preparing for the sacrificial offering of his life for the sins of the world.
Again, and again, we see how God calls those who were complacent to be where they were in life, or as in Christ’s case, ready to be moved to the next stage in life whereby they would become the person God had always intended them to be. But then again, this concept of moving from one season of life to the next is made quite clear when Paul writes in Romans, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.“ Jesus tells his disciples directly, “I tell you the truth,’ Jesus said to them, ‘no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”
My life’s pathway would take me far away from that old farmhouse front porch and those dear cousins. Eventually, the old homestead would be razed to the ground. Now, all that’s left of that tiny farm on the edge of town are the outbuildings and dairy barn. Sadly, in that respect, cousin Deep’s words were indeed prophetic. None of us can ever go back to that physical dwelling except in our minds and hearts. Even if we could, we are all changed by the course of life through which we have traveled.
On those rare occasions when we are allowed the time to return to the land or places we have left behind, there is so much more meaning in even the smallest details that we have previously overlooked. It changes our reaction and perception of those things we once took for granted. It is sometimes so obvious that those who never left notice our metamorphosis but cannot understand why. It is in these return trips that we realize how important it is in our Christian walk of life to go beyond those places we have always considered our “safe havens,” and to be changed by our walk with God. Like those Bible Saints of old, we too must traverse beyond our comfort zones into the land of the unknown, where we will more fully rely on God. It is in these remote, obscure locations when we have left everything behind that we find we have nothing left but God himself. It is then we find we are truly changed.
And eventually, our journey ends.
As we made our way back to the parking area, one couldn’t help but think through the day’s journey. The hike was wrought with several challenges that tested our physical endurance and stamina; yet, it made for an arduous but rewarding adventure. Countless scenes of breathtaking beauty passed before our eyes. Yet, even in all of that seemingly never-ending sea of yellow, orange, and red, there it was, once more on the trail ahead – the tiny blue feather. A breath of life lay upon the sod below me, and for a moment, it made me pause once again. The winged creature from which it once bore, now gone, left behind a piece of beauty – a solitary calling card of their existence, a brief reminder of how even the most insignificant detail can make a difference in a person’s life.
Indeed, it made my heart smile.
My perception of life had changed to the point, even the most insignificant detail stood out.
Seeing the world through new eyes, one can perceive beauty through the lens of being in Christ. What does that mean, you ask? It means that while we are still present in the body, we are made new when we follow Jesus. We then begin to see the world not through lustful wants and desires but through the vision of what God intended us to see in his creation. Once you have traversed through those “wildernesses of life,” you are changed, and because of that, you appreciate those little things that were once overlooked.
When life’s journey takes you to that unknown land of Canaan, take heart, for you are not alone. This Thanksgiving, as you and your family and friends gather around the table to honor tradition, pause for a minute and look at the faces looking back at you. Those that are there with you are now part of your life’s story. You are all the result of someone stepping into the vast abyss of the unknown and, having survived, can now more fully appreciate what is taking place. There may be family and friends missing from your proverbial table who have passed or left for their life’s journey, but let not your heart be troubled, for they are there with you in your heart and your memories. Let the day be one of not just a meal but of recognizing the blessings of being where you are in life. May it be a reminder that all of your possessions amount to little when you think of the love that surrounds you at that moment.
Sometimes, it takes moving far away from those old farmhouse porches, stepping out of the boat, leaving behind your flock of sheep, and coming out of the pasture. Sometimes it requires taking a journey into the literal unknown before we finally realize our purpose and relationship with God. But, when we finally come to this incredible realization of being one with Christ, it is then that we are blessed beyond measure. This revelation could be one of the most critical “woke-isms” of your lifetime – to know that you have found a genuine relationship with a loving God.
Trust me, once you do, you will never be the same again – what a Thanksgiving day that will be.
And for that, we can all surely say, “Thanks be to God.”
 Mark 1:19-20
 Genesis 12:1-5
 Exodus 12:31-33
 1 Samuel 16:12-13
 Luke 4:1-2
 Romans 6:6
 Luke 18:28-29
Timothy W. Tron lives in Collettsville, NC. with his family. He is currently the Systems Administrator for the Computer Science Department at App. State. Timothy is the former Director of the Trail of Faith in Valdese, where he still volunteers and helps with tours. He is the author of a new Christian series, “Children of the Light”, with the first book being, “Bruecke to Heaven”, revised as “Bridge to Heaven”, and his recent book, being the second, “The Light in the Darkness”. He is an active blogger, artist, and musician. Timothy also has a BSEE from UF, and is a Lay Speaker. He is currently acting as the Faculty/Staff Liaison for the Ratio Christi campus ministry at App. State. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org You can visit his website at //www.timothywtron.com/ or see more of his writings HERE