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On giving thanks…

O Christ our God, bless the food, drink, and fellowship of Thy servants, for Thou art holy always, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

“Are you going to pray?” he said, pulling me aside and whispering so that our guests would not hear. I nodded my yes and walked into the diningroom with my husband. It was our habit now to discern it ahead of time so that the awkward silence could be avoided. We had no other system in place for this as Dave got used to my transition into Orthodoxy and I got used to his transition out of organized religion in general.

Growing up, our dinner prayer was “Bless O Lord, these thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ, our Lord. Amen.” It’s similar enough to the Orthodox prayer I’m trying to remember these days and yet I just can’t seem to keep the words in my brain. I blame insomnia, aging, parenting, and Vitamin D deficiency in that order. The constant fog on my brain hangs just in front of my eyes. I push it aside like bangs from my face but mostly it seems that by then I’m just playing catch up.

The prayer Dave and I used to say before meals, a practice we didn’t really begin until we had children, was similar as well. It was a take on the one they said at his table growing up. All these things, they speak the same sentiment, gratitude- Thank you for this. We were in need and here it is. Thank you.

The first thing we noticed when we moved to Nashville was that everyone wanted to pray before meals in public. Dave and I would look at each other awkwardly, smiling and accepting this new practice but never, ever initiating it. There was something about it that rubbed us both the wrong way, even though at that time we were both engaged in the  protestant tradition. We went along with it and certainly, we were cool with the idea of it, being openly thankful, and yet the midwestern in each of us bristled at the public showing, no matter that everyone else in LaHacienda was doing it to at their own tables.

Dave has been asked to pray before meals now, even here in Chicago, by family and friends, perhaps just out of habit. Dave, being head of the household and all, the baton would fall to him naturally, and now as our guests looked to his end of the table he handed it off to me and I took it, mumbling through something, a mish-mash of all the prayers I knew for mealtime, my childhood, his childhood, our parenthood, beginning with thank you, ending with thank you, gratitude spilling onto the table as easily as water from a glass, as clumsily as gravy spilling from the passed plate.

In the end I suppose that’s what we’re after- not the performance of the words or the strictness of the phrasing but the simple act of thanks, in public, in private, it’s all practice and we’re all still and always students in it.