The glowing lights on the tree breathe warmth into the aesthetics of our living room, and a holly-berry garland adorns the Nativity resting on the buffet. With every ornament placed or heirloom decoration unwrapped, I try to resuscitate the tiniest remnant of joy that might still linger. Deep crimsons and green, frosty pine branches and cinnamon scented candles fill our living space. Yet, even amidst the figurines and Fa-La-La pizzazz, I can’t seem to conjure any kind of Christmas spirit. If I am honest, it first became apparent when I drove the streets of town and stopped waving, stopped wondering who I might recognize as we passed one another on the familiar routes. To school, home from school, to work, home from work. I hardened, mastering function without feeling. It was too laborious -- All the let-downs, arguments, death, and weariness were too heavy, crowding out the space inside me. My heartbeat became insulated by all the garbage and left me resembling machine more than man. I trained my eyes to avoid distractions in the peripheral. Better to focus on living, when caring has become cumbersome. It’s cold, harsh and shameful, I know. But, I'd rather you have the whole picture then just the pretty part..
Yes, this is how I really feel. Don’t be fooled by my cliche replies to your: how are you? “Fine” is a fancy lie for f***ed up.
It’s a dressed-up, rotten-underneath, falsity. (And even though we don’t use the latter word in our house, my 11-year old son can always see through a four-letter facade.) Often in our well-rehearsed lines of surface chatter, we fail to talk about raw, genuine feelings or admit screaming into pillows or shaking our fist at the sky. But this is real life, and we feel it all, so why not admit it too?
If you can’t tell, I am over EVERYTHING. “This too shall pass”, right? But, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t left with the ambiguity of a black eye. Every conversation is scripted to the language of a Pandemic. So many have died alone and more are dying in isolation even those that aren’t sick. They are dying of their loneliness. There is an argument for everything, and all the feuds on a global scale have micro-replicas that are present in our homes. Stress compounds and quickly siphons our joy, our laughter, our resiliency. We end up snarky, and cynical, digressing from numb to full-on apathy.
So, This is for all of you that are emptied out and oh-so-over-it too. You are in the right place. And empty is actually an invitation for Christ to come.
My tender heart is a curse and a gift, making me more sensitive to injury and easily hurt, but also allowing Christ to reach me when my spirit is broken. I don’t know if it’s innate, but even in my volatile, self-pitying, insular pride, I can just as easily be cracked open and tamed. It’s surprising how even as unfeeling and embittered I may become, God has a way of blindsiding me: eggs on my porch, an unexpected, out-of-nowhere hug from my children, a compliment when I feel unlovely, a generous tip just for making someone a cup of coffee, snow-covered trees dressed like a bride on her wedding day-as they sit radiantly poised against the backdrop of a gray sky, church bells ringing again, filling the hollow sky with tones that call for my attention. The innocent smile of a baby, her tiny hand filling mine. These become the light that creeps in through rubble of the aftermath. Behold He comes! God meets me eye to eye in these tiny incidentals, and assures me with unwavering certainty: “I’ve got you.” He tears through the callous around my heart. And somehow, every time I am throwing my shoes off to stand on Holy ground, as the peace that was absent is suddenly burning under my feet.
There are no road maps to navigate a Pandemic or even the next hour, month, year or decade. But, perhaps that’s the beauty of it, and learning to gracefully trust-fall. Maybe the meaning of all King David's Psalms was not finding an answer, but telling the hard and brutal truth, and maybe the significance is in the search rather than what is found. Maybe there is a purpose for restlessness, because it opposes idleness, challenges it, giving us reasons to get off the floor and take His hand to move forward. Walking through the door of a new year offers so much hope. It’s the place on the calendar where we can literally mark a new beginning. Where we can leave the garbage and take with us the treasures, because God doesn’t leave us empty-handed. We are still alive.. and as long as I am I will believe that God’s endings are always cups running over, streams in the desert, and banquet tables in valleys of death, just as His beginnings are clean slates, and second chances.
It’s okay to be sad, and mad, and feel all of the auxiliary emotions that accompany these. it’s okay to want to burn it all to that ground and go back to the way things were before this year. Wherever you are is normal. Yet I tend to think more and more that God’s plans are better than ours, and that he can take every dark and turn it to light. So, whatever it is that has you feeling stuck or trapped, end it, and begin fresh. Maybe you can’t end it, like we can’t eliminate a rampant virus, but break out of your tomb in some way, some small and tiny way that lets light filter in and begin to do what light does best.. It changes what we see. I have spent long enough walking with night vision. Let dawn come, pierce through the sky and flood us all with light for our shadows and beauty for our ashes.