Happy All Saints Day! Though my church tradition doesn’t specifically celebrate the day, I tend to pause on Nov 1st to think about the people who came before me. Looking back can help us move forward, especially when we celebrate the examples of those who rose above their circumstances and failures to press on in the faith. They are part of the “great cloud of witnesses” cheering us on:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
Who is in your personal great cloud of witnesses? The chapter preceding this passage gives a Hall of Faith Fame that we can all share, with remembrances of everyone from Noah to Rahab to David. However, I’m also indebted to my mom for making All Saints Day resonate with me as I celebrate the Hall of Famers from my own past. Several years ago, she did an All Saints writing project with her junior high students to explore their heritages. Her students thought and wrote about those who had influenced their lives, and they were able to move toward gratitude for those people.
Her point was that the people who came before us (whether they are from our family of origin or are simply people who have impacted us) contribute to who we are. They are the people who made us.
Whether those people looked like “saints” or not, we can find things to celebrate about our connection with the people of the past. Did they overcome adversity in some area? Then, we can, too. Did they teach us something that has helped us? Then, we can do the same for others. Did they fill a void where someone in our natural family failed us? Then, we can thank God for providing friendship and love from an unexpected source.
I am starting this month of Thanksgiving, then, with a moment of thankfulness for my cloud of witnesses: godly parents and grandparents, neighbors and friends who were like parents and grandparents, English teachers who taught me to love writing, mentors who taught me to love the person I was becoming, Bible teachers who didn’t just preach me a list of do’s and don’ts but taught me to love God’s word, bosses who gave me career opportunities, and a multitude of friends who’ve brightened my life.
I am profoundly grateful. Won’t you join me in giving thanks for the people who made us?