Ten Seats, Six Feet—Let’s Eat

As I prepare to serve as a host for a Thanksgiving celebration, I cannot help but stop and realize that this holiday season is going to be entirely different than any other. I don my mask as I enter the grocery store, staying at least six feet from my shopping counterparts. Inside, I see a little girl in a shield drop her doll in the aisle; I smile at her through my mask (you know, the eye smile) and pick up her doll. Her face lights up behind the shield as I move toward her with her toy.

I approach, grateful for a “normal” interaction in a world of “new normals,” only to be met by the girl’s grandmother, who hurriedly grabs the doll from me, sprays it down with Lysol, throws it in the cart, and pushes it away down the aisle, with hand sanitizer on the ready to squirt into her and her granddaughter’s hands. In this moment, I am crushed as I realize that this typically normal interaction in any American grocery store will not be normalized for quite some time, due to COVID-19.

A Cautious Thanksgiving

This interaction flashed my mind forward to my own Thanksgiving holiday fete, where I would host my own gathering of ten or fewer family members. Our small group will be missing out on the fullness of a gathering in order to ensure its safety. Hugs will be traded for waves. Laughter will be muffled under face masks. Hand sanitizer will flow like water. And the maximum capacity of the table will not be tested, but instead place settings will be distanced to minimize contact.

Standing there with my stuffing in one hand and my collard greens in the other, I thought to myself, This year, would cautiousness crush our thankfulness?

The Faithfulness of God 

But then I remembered 1 Chronicles 16:34, where King David says, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!”

I was reminded about who our God is. Our God is old. He has seen His people through anything and everything. He saw the Israelites through their time in and out of Egypt in Exodus. He saw the apostles through persecution in Acts. He saw Paul through a long imprisonment. He was faithful to His people because of His love for them. And they gave thanks for Him!

I was reminded of how our God is also no stranger to pandemics! In His timelessness, He has seen his people through plagues in Egypt. He has allowed the destroyer to pass over them on account of the blood of the lamb. He has seen the world through the bubonic plague. He has seen us through several influenza crises. And now, He is walking with us in COVID-19.

I was simply assaulted by one fact: our God loves us. He loves us so much, in fact, that our thankfulness should overflow.

So instead of being disappointed about just ten seats at the Thanksgiving table, we should give thanks that God allowed us to have some more intimate conversations with a smaller family group.

Instead of complaining about being six feet apart, we should be grateful that we are not seeing our loved ones pass and be put six feet under.

Instead of allowing our cautiousness to tint our thankfulness, we should let our thankfulness be amplified in this moment. We should praise God for His gifts.

Ten seats—six feet—let’s eat.

And give thanks to Him who loves us.

Happy Thanksgiving—no matter the distance between you and those you love.

Because there is no distance between us and the One who loves us.

Amid unusual celebrations, Jesus Christ remains the same.

Read Faith in the Shadow of a Pandemic

Picture of Rev. Dr. Gerard Bolling
Rev. Dr. Gerard Bolling is an LCMS pastor and Lutheran university educator. Dr. Bolling holds a BA in theatre from Concordia University Chicago, an MDiv from Concordia Seminary, and a doctor of education (EdD) degree from Concordia University Wisconsin in leadership, innovation, and continuous improvement. His dissertation was focused on human resource development in under-resourced urban ministry structures of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (How LCMS Pastors Are Developed through Mentorship). Dr. Bolling currently serves in a dual call as pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in St. Louis, Missouri, and as assistant professor of leadership and theology in the online modality and coordinator of multicultural engagement at Concordia University Texas. His passion for urban ministry, education, leadership, nonprofit management, mentorship, diversity/equity/inclusion, and distance learning are all married in this dual call as he serves the saints of Bethlehem and the students of Concordia University Texas simultaneously. Dr. Bolling has also spoken at numerous conferences, on podcasts, and at churches, schools, and events within our church body, reflecting the love of Christ and prodding deeper conversations about deaf, urban, and cross-cultural inclusive ministry. He has taught in half the schools of the Concordia University System, thoroughly realizing the depth of knowledge our Concordia schools have to offer to the world they engage. Dr. Bolling has been married to his beautiful and talented wife, Lorenda, for six years. Lorenda serves as a preschool teacher at Word of Life Lutheran School. Together, they have a four-year-old son named Lincoln and a two-year-old daughter named Monroe. Both children were born in different years but on the exact date—October 5! They currently reside on the south side of St. Louis, Missouri.

Subscribe to all CPH Blog topics (Worship, Read, Study, Teach, and Serve)