Abundant Thanksgiving


Have you ever looked for something that was right in front of your eyes and, for some unknown reason, just didn’t see it?  Perhaps a special pair of socks in your dresser drawer; maybe a jar of jam on the refrigerator shelf; or possibly your car keys sitting on the kitchen counter.  You looked once… twice…maybe even three times…and still you could not see what lay right before your eyes.  It was as though you were temporarily blinded.  Is it that you had an expectation of what you should see and it somehow missed your visual grasp?  Or is it that you were preoccupied and failed to give the necessary attention to your search?  What kept you from seeing that which was right in front of your eyes? I’ve had this experience of not seeing something I was searching for, and once found, I couldn’t believe that I’d missed it.  It causes me to wonder…what else is right before our eyes that we miss seeing?


Recently I had the opportunity to observe a five-month-old baby as he played with a colorful toy his mother had given him.  It was fascinating to watch him as he invested intense energy looking at the object.  It was as though he cherished the vision before him…taking in every detail of color, shape, size and texture.  


It’s not just what we see, but how we see that opens our eyes to the Glory of God made manifest all around us.  Think about a time when you saw something that went beyond what you expected.  Maybe it was a sunset that transported you to a place of peace and tranquility.  Or it may have been the first time you looked into the eyes of your newborn child or grandchild and felt moved by the wonder of creation.  Perhaps it happened when you were mountain climbing…or sitting beside the bed of a dying loved one…or fishing…or reading to your child…or working with wood…or helping a neighbor…or working in the garden.  Maybe it happened when your were praying or receiving Holy Communion.  Was it a time when you momentarily saw something more than what was before your eyes…or was it perhaps that you saw with new eyes?  Maybe it was both!


Some would call this a mystical experience—a direct encounter with the mystery we call God. We read of such occurrences throughout the Bible.  Paul’s experience of light on the road to Damascus is one such encounter.  I believe we all have such moments…experiences wherein our eyes are opened to see something more. At times we may reflect on these encounters with the mystery and our hearts are changed; at other times we simply brush them aside and a moment of grace is lost in the midst of the days activities. 


I’ve often wondered why there are so many stories about blindness in the Bible.  Jesus was certainly a healer and those who were touched by him walked away with new sight…but what was that sight? We take it for granted that these stories refer to a physical healing…and perhaps they do. However, with a more concrete interpretation of Jesus’ healings I am left with the question: Was this person really changed by their encounter with Jesus?


I wonder if there is something we don’t see by limiting our interpretation.  Can a blind person experience healing, and see things more deeply without having their vision restored?  Looking at this from a concrete perspective one would likely ask, how can they see without restored sight?  The paradox comes in the concept of seeing…the difference between seeing what is right before us and seeing something more…something that is always there but we miss it because of our spiritual blindness.  Is it possible that at least some healing stories refer to a spiritual blindness—the inability to see God’s love…God’s presence and action in our lives?  Could it be that at least some of these healings refer to an encounter with Jesus that changed the very nature of the individual…that their spiritual eyes were opened to see the abundance of God’s grace all around them? 


November is the month in which we celebrate Thanksgiving. It is a time when we come together to give thanks for the abundant gifts that God has given us as individuals, family, community and nation.  I invite you to take a moment each day this month to think about something for which you are thankful. It could be a word of support from a friend or coworker, a moment of rest to soak in the silence, the beauty of leaves turning color and falling from the trees, an especially invigorating workout at the gym, or gazing into the joyful eyes of your grandchild.  After a month of looking daily at the things for which you’re thankful you may be surprised to discover you are seeing with new eyes…that God is healing your spiritual blindness and showing you the abundance that surrounds you every day. 



With abundant thanksgiving,


Debbie Kohler, M.A.


Debbie is a pastoral counselor and spiritual director who meets with people at both Milwaukie and St. Paul Lutheran churches.  She can be reached at 503/558-9400.