This year we bought a house for $15,000.00 in North Dakota, we financed the newest vehicle we’ve had in many years, and I lost a few pounds of emotional baggage (though I can’t say the same for my hips) – which is saying something because the last three years have been rough physically, financially, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
This is the first Christmas that I have felt whole and well. Not richer. Not smarter. Not in any exceptionally different circumstance yet better somehow…
I realize that so much of my former anxiety revolved around comparisons, around everyone else’s advising and chastising voice in my head. This has been a progressive revelation that began years ago but seems to be cresting now. A few surface-level examples:
No real Christmas family traditions? – The incriminating voices of all those celebrating beautiful and liturgical Christmases shoot daggers at me: I am robbing my children of something meaningful, I can hear their silences assert…
No social extra-curricular activities? – The eyebrows of others’ voices crescendo into a cacophony of disapprovals behind my eyes: How will my kids learn that ‘team work makes the dream work’?…
No long-term residence thus far, resulting in the usual consequence of no long-term close friendships, nothing familiar to hold on to during cold nights? – Those who’ve put down blessed roots and already blossomed toss unintentional shade as we cling to one another somewhere below their estimation: No one says these things, but this has been part of the baggage I’ve carried every time I walk into a perfectly settled and decorated home, every time I encounter those too busy with their own family ties to entertain a strange family new to town, every time those with seniority in a neighborhood, church, or social event draw firm lines around what must be earned – and the length of time they calculate is necessary to earn it (which I could never prior meet).
No one has to say it. It’s just the law of circumstance, the laws of the rooted and the nomadic teasing each other. I make lists of places I’ve been to impress; they make lists of social engagements and entanglements to feel important. Six in one hand, a half dozen in the other.
And that’s without unraveling the maniacal chords of my own disorderly triune – spirit, soul, body – shouting me down with my very own formulaic or fantastical standards. Who knew so many quarreling voices could form such a united wrecking ball in one’s own mind?
My sister said that I was Elsa the first time we saw Frozen; she was right. I guess I’m simply saying that I told those voices to shut-up. I can’t run away to an ice castle, but I can run to my High Tower and tell all of those discordant voices – that drown this child and cause me to lose sight of Jesus’ hand extended to me – to shut the hell up.
I hope friends past, present, and future will not mistake that necessary line for an ice-bolt directed at Anna’s heart (the hearts of my friends): It is not. My quarrel is not with any of these, not with any of you. My quarrel has been with myself, with God, and with the damned ‘Accuser of the brethren’ (and sister-en, if you must, joker).
You know what’s funny? Since telling those voices to shut-up, I realized none of them were telling the whole truth. That’s freedom, friend.
This year, we had a true white Christmas. Not only was there snow on the ground but the snow also fell today in those perfectly large flakes. It was beautiful. While I have a healthy fear (the kind that says not to skate on thin ice) of the frigid temperatures en route, I have no reason to fear today: Today, the house is warm, the landscape outside is frozen and picturesque, the kids are happy and fed, and I have all I need…
I found it too often impossible to enjoy these things before: Foreboding was my middle name.
There are many ways to live and they all appear to be right in a mortal’s eyes. Those who strive for excellence and security feel they do so rightly; those who strive for peace and simplicity feel they do so rightly; those who strive for position and social standing do so for a ‘right’ cause; those who shun the world think they do rightly, and those who clutch the whole world between their thighs, riding high, know they do so rightly: Every one of these ways ends in death.
All of our ways end in death, fellow mortals.
When you see all mortals as naked as the day they were born, what is important shines a little clearer. (We dim the mirror with our illusions, I think…)
“Unless you repent, you also will perish,” (Luke 13:3) – Jesus. Solomon had it right. Only one thing actually matters: Fear God (Ecclesiastes 12:13). The rest is anxiety-producing nonsense, and on this matter I agree entirely with Elsa in Frozen:
Let it go!
Let it go!
Let’s let these comparisons with one another go… (Me first! I know.)
As members of one body, we each serve God uniquely as He equips us – some in highly visible and shiny vessels and some more obscurely in hiddenness. And the belly button will never see what the elbows see; they just won’t – and it’s not even their fault! – and it doesn’t mean that they’re not functioning properly! But each one must give an account to God. He reigns over all of these matters, so let us be content with what God has given, whether in blessed rootedness or dependent (but also blessed) sojourning since we all sojourn Earth and we each take our strength from the Root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:10), else we die.
As for tradition:
Next year, I’m cooking frozen pizza for Christmas because whoever started this let’s-use-more-dishes-than-the-whole-year-so-we-have-to-clean-all-day-on-a-holiday tradition was total bats.
As for social activities:
Being an introvert is not a birth defect, social blight, crying shame, or a sin. We can’t dance you under the table… but we do know how to cry with you, how to laugh with you, how to hope with you, how to wrap our arms around you…
As for these wispy roots:
The wealth of extended family God has given us in our travels was worth it. We’ve been privileged to witness many different ways of living, many different family traditions, and many kinds of blossoms… One day, I believe, our family’s traditions will be more meaningful because of the many children of Our Father who have shared their special days with us.
We are so thankful for each of you and for God’s abundant goodness in our lives.