Why I Celebrate Thanksgiving This Year

Twenty-five years ago I took a field trip with my elementary school class to a children’s museum. At the end of the tour up a stairway lined with rowdy children, was a narrow, dark touch tunnel that would lead us to the exit. I knelt down for my turn and began to crawl forward into this tight spot. I didn’t go further than a few feet before I knew I would never make it. I backed out.

Recently, my doctor scheduled an MRI and asked, “Are you claustrophobic?” I replied that I had that tendency, but I could probably handle it. At the time of the MRI the technician gave me a soft plastic bulb in my hand and said, “If you need to come out for any reason, at any time, just squeeze on this.”

I relaxed, got comfortable with the headphones, and they slid the bed inside the machine. Just as the scan started and the technician said, “It’s going to get loud now,” I opened my eyes to get familiar with my position. Not a good idea. While the technician words were meant to reassure me, I couldn’t respond. And that idea of being completely cut off from communication in this space frightened me.

The machine was right on top of me, like the lid of a casket. Heat rose from my chest and pushed quickly out toward my limbs. The machine clanged.  I knew I wouldn’t make it through the next 45 minutes of scans. I pressed the squeezable bulb.

Now I know I’m claustrophobic. That was hard to admit to the technician and myself. Fears are one of the hardest weaknesses to admit because they are often answered with responses like, “Just don’t think about it,” “Just calm down,” or “Have more faith.”

Those words may be a way to cope mentally, emotionally and even spiritually, but I felt a pronounced physical reaction to the close environment and needed to release that by pressing the button. The technician didn’t say any of these things to me, only that I could reschedule. But I still felt less capable because of my weakness, my fear, my inability to proceed.

Now, as I approach Thanksgiving, I miss the activity associated with planning, shopping or preparing a feast since we are not holding the dinner at our house this year. But the experience with my own fears showed me a deeper reason for my personal celebration of gratitude this year.

This frightful experience became an object lesson for me to better understand the atonement of Jesus Christ. Even though fear may seem to be just an emotional response, I suffered physical symptoms that I couldn’t bear in the moment. His suffering allowed him to know and feel all our pains, which I imagine also include our fears.

This Infinite Atonement of Christ was possible because . . .  He was the Only Begotten of the Father and therefore possessed the attributes of godhood that gave Him power over physical death.

In the midst of all this pain, he still retained his power over death, which would have made it possible for him to forgo this experience. We know as he proceeded, it was difficult, and none were with him.

And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. Matthew 26:39

His godly attributes made a figurative squeezable bulb in his hand to press. But he went forward. He didn’t push the panic button. Instead, he said, “thy will be done.” And because he did, he knows how I feel. And He  knows how to make weak things become strong.

But I am still mortal, we’re all mortal, and all our weaknesses and fears may not be removed, overcome or healed completely in this life. Even then, he knows them and will help you and I to bear them.

Who else would we trust more than Him? That he moved forward without backing out, despite his suffering, so that he could do this for each of us is why I celebrate Thanksgiving this year. He’s why I give thanks.


  1. Camille
    Nov 23, 2009

    Thank you for your thoughts. I too have recently felt fears that seemed to overpower me. And I also find the peace and hope I need in His love. Somehow He does help us move forward when we don’t feel we can.

  2. Courtney W
    Nov 23, 2009

    Beautiful. Thanks, Teresa.

  3. Liz
    Nov 24, 2009

    Thank you for sharing these personal and lovely thoughts. I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving.

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