The Reality of Rockwell’s Table

Norman Rockwell - Freedom of WantThanksgiving 2020 likely has most of us wishing for one of those placid holidays from the past—the kind Norman Rockwell depicted, where problems were painted out of the picture and only blessings and comfort remained inside the frame. It’s easy to gaze at such artwork, compare it to what this week looks like for you, and assume that delight and relief have been consigned to another time and place.

Yes, this is a complicated Thanksgiving—unlike any Citygate Network members have ever experienced. The usual citywide celebrations for which rescue missions and similar ministries have been known have mostly been canceled or scaled back so significantly that they aren’t recognizable as a major holiday endeavor. Even venturing out to be with family later in the week is a risky proposition.

I’ve heard some people say they are holding their thanks until COVID-19 is behind us. On this week’s U.S. Interagency Council of Homelessness (USICH) Task Force call, the conversation was about “the rush to a vaccine.” It seems that so many want to get back to experiencing normal holidays—the kind represented at Rockwell’s table—so they can again be thankful.

But the truth is, artists’ brushstrokes, like faded memories, have a way of covering up all of the real-life issues—the health, marital, financial, or maybe developmental concerns—that secretly circle many holiday tables every year. The realities of life are always just below the paint.

If thankfulness depends on bliss, you will be disappointed. Bliss is a fleeting feeling. Contentment, however, holds on. The Apostle Paul told the Philippians that he had finally gotten to the point that he could be content regardless of his circumstances. No doubt, that’s what kept his portrait bright, despite so many trying to color his canvas with the dark hues of opposition.

This Thanksgiving is giving us the opportunity to practice contentment amid the disappointment and fatigue we are all feeling. So, on behalf of all of us at Citygate Network, I wish you satisfaction with God in your current situation and a seat near the head of His table so you can enjoy a feast for your soul.

John Ashmen
Citygate Network