Tonight I sit alone in the quietness of our living room. My husband, exhausted from being out quite late last night, is already sound asleep. The two kids and future daughter-in-law are all downstairs. The TV is off. The tree is twinkling competing with the glow from my computer. I am also exhausted and in pain, but my mind is full of thoughts. My nighttime medication will kick in soon. Until then, I know that typing will help sort out my thoughts. I doubt these thoughts will be read by many given the time I will post them as well as the fact that holidays should be spent with family–not on the computer. But, I write this for my own benefit. I hope some day I can look back on the entries from this year and say with awe and wonder, “Those days were so difficult, but God was faithful.” It’s the second half of that compound sentence that is filling my mind tonight.
For the last few years, we have not gone to church on Christmas Eve. Our church is 3o miles away. I’ve never been a fan of leaving the house empty on Christmas Eve, so we have stayed home for several years. We have spent time together watching movies or taking walks in the falling snow. Last year, we had deep snow on the ground and a storm system that moved in on this day that brought beautiful falling snow. I remember my husband and I bundling up to take a walk to take in the beauty of it all. This year, the ground is not even white, and if it were, a walk would not be in my best physical interests. This year, we decided to go to church for Christmas Eve. The two youngest and our son’s fiance went with us. Our oldest did not want to drive home that late and our second is unable to join us for Christmas this year. I love our church, but tonight I found it difficult to be there. You see, this past Sunday was a very difficult day for me. Our pastor preached a message that really got to me and my emotions were impossible to squelch. Long story short, I feel like maybe finding a new church is in order for I am embarrassed to face those who witnessed my tears and raw emotion. I say that with only slight honesty as I realize that is not a valid reason to leave a church. There is more, though, that is weighing on my heart tonight.
Our pastor started with the following words: “If the WHY isn’t compelling than the WHAT doesn’t make sense.” He gave us some time to think about that and then went on to explain what he meant by it. The basic gist of the phrase is that if we are only celebrating Christmas for the festivities–the presents, cookies, family, etc…–than we are completely missing the point. The whole point of Christmas is Christ. There are people I know and love who do not believe that, but I do. The problem is, as I thought about this whole concept of Christmas and the WHY behind it, I had to honestly ask myself if Jesus has really changed my life…and my honest answer had to be “No”. Yes, I know if I died tonight I would go to heaven. I know that my eternity will be spent with people of every tribe and every tongue praising God. I know…I know so many things and I believe them all to be true. I believe the fact that the birth of Jesus was real and miraculous and necessary if I was to be saved. Yet, I have to honestly say that I don’t think Jesus has made a huge impact on my life. I still complain–a lot. I still wonder if God can be considered good in all things, like disease–an obvious one since I live with it. What about death? I have a dear friend who is facing this Christmas without her husband. He passed away much too young in March. It was nothing he did–he wasn’t driving after drinking or jumping off cliffs or anything dangerous. No, he died because his body was afflicted with cancer. He didn’t ask for it, yet for some reason, God allowed it to happen. I know of several families who will gather around their tables tomorrow without the presence of a child who occupied a seat there last year. Ben, Brayden, Ethan, Trevor–all names of children who left this earth way too soon. I know of families who have their children still with them, yet they are fighting a battle to stay alive. I think of Kate, Hunter, Scott, and others who may be on earth still but a celebration is not in order. Instead, an infusion of chemo or a hospital room is their residence for Christmas day. Can all this be true and the fact that God is always good also be true? It seems impossible to say yes to that question. The answer is yes, though. It is just so very difficult right now to fully grasp that. And that difficulty makes me wonder just how much Jesus has changed my life.
The larger question, however, isn’t that fact in and of itself. It isn’t that easy. The harder question is, “What do I do about it?” What do I do about the fact that my faith is weak and my doubts are high? How do I deal with emotions that show themselves against my will and embarrass me and make me wonder if people are sick of me? Do I stay home from church so that my tears don’t embarrass me and annoy others? How do I let Jesus really change my life so that Christmas is more than stress and exhaustion and presents and feeling badly that I didn’t do as much as I have in previous years?
I NEED God so badly–not just in December but in January and April and July and all the months that make up the year. He is no longer the baby in a manger. He is my Savior, my Father, yet I am having a really hard time finding Him this Christmas season.
As the medication cocktail kicks in, I end with as much angst as I started. Somewhere among the lights on the tree, the food in refrigerator, the cookies in their tins, and the presents under the tree, there is a God who sent His Son so that I might live with Him forever. Has he abandoned me? No. The Bible says He will never leave me or forsake me. The Bible says that if I seek Him with all my heart I will find Him. Do you see my heart, God? Do you hear my cries? Am I destined to be alone during this difficult season? Have my tears pushed others away? Have I become too much of a burden to those around me?
I need you tonight–not to do anything for me except to reassure me that you are there and that you still love me.