Love On the Menu

Read: Proverbs 15:17

Better is a dinner of vegetables where love is than a fatted ox and hatred with it (Proverbs 15:17, NRSV).

How does the old song go? Over the river and through the woods—to Grandmother’s house we go….

It was November of 2000, and my husband and I were making our annual pilgrimage to the family farm for Thanksgiving. I don’t remember going over the river or through the woods. I don’t even remember the traffic around Chicago. What I do remember is being glued to NPR, waiting for news of who had won the presidential election.

But wait, you may be saying. Why were you still waiting for the results of the presidential election at Thanksgiving? We were waiting because the election was so close, everything hinged on a recount in Florida to determine who would win the electoral college. That recount was mandated by state law since George W. Bush was only 537 votes ahead of Al Gore (who had, for the record, won the national popular vote). The election wasn’t decided until December 12, when the Supreme Court, in a 5 to 4 decision, stopped the recount and effectively declared George W. Bush the winner.

All of this is to say: You think it’s tense THIS year?

Realistically, though, there is a sense in which it is more tense this year. Our nation is even more polarized politically and culturally than it was two decades ago. And as we anticipate our annual holiday gatherings, tension will be on the menu for most of us.

Which brings me to this pithy little verse from Proverbs.

Proverbs become proverbs because generations of people recognize the truth in them. Having said that, it’s easy to see why Proverbs 15:17 made the grade. Many of us have learned the truth of this one the hard way.

But what wisdom does this proverb offer to those of us who are preparing to head over the river and through the woods to family gatherings fraught with tension?

Maybe this proverb is telling you to avoid the gathering altogether. Better a green bean casserole at home than turkey with all the fixings in a war zone.

Or maybe it’s nudging you to make sure love is on the menu. This is easier said than done, obviously. You could start by praying for your “frenemies.” It worked for Job and Jesus, after all. Of course, the relatives on the opposite end of the political spectrum may well be praying for you, too, but God will sort that out. I’ve always suspected such prayers benefit the “pray-er” more than the “pray-ee,” anyway, so it’s worth a try.

May God grant you courage, wisdom, patience, and grace as you anticipate family gatherings this year. And may love be the main thing on the menu.

Ponder: In Britain people often refer to political opponents as the “loyal opposition.” In the U.S.A. we’ve taken to thinking of them as “the enemy.” What are the causes of this? The consequences?

Pray: Grant us courage, wisdom, patience, and grace, O God. And then grant the same to those with whom we disagree.