Ahhh. That “most wonderful time of year.” Christmas. School is out; presents are bought and wrapped and gently placed under the tree. All that’s left is some lovely cooking, a passionate Christmas Eve worship service, and that “long winter’s nap” during which the big guy in red makes his magical appearance. The shalom and solace of the season, the Baby’s birth, finds its space in my spirit, whispering “peace” . . .
Yeah, maybe on the Hallmark Channel, but out here, in the reality of my life? Not so much. . .
23 December, 2014. *****BOOM*****!!! That lump in my throat exploded. I woke up feeling overwhelmed and tearful, and so guilty for feeling so sorrowful. I mean, what right have I to feel sad? Ummmm. None! But when that sorrow, that deep grief of the soul hits, trying to fight it (as I had been for weeks) or talk or pray my way out of it is just an exercise in futility. Why? Because the feeling, the grief, is so deep that the only real and authentic response is to lean IN. Acknowledge it; accept it without judgement. The whole guilt-thing over feeling sorrowful and knowing you have no reason to feel so only invites self flagellation. It helps no one, least of all myself.
As I am writing these words, I am reminded of two powerful lessons I’ve learned over the past few years:
The first I learned several years ago while navigating a more extended and intense sorrowful time. (It is okay if you want to insert “depression,” “sadness,” “anxiety” in there- whatever term works best for you.) Sometimes I must pray for the strength to quiet the tears and keep moving forward. Sometimes I must pray for the strength to let the tears come, because in the tears is water holy enough to cleanse wounds and begin healing.
The second lesson I learned just about 9-10 months ago. I went to Haiti in February 2014 confident (for many reasons) I would be coming home WITH Lenia by month’s end. Most of my readers know Lenia, in fact, did not come home until May, some two and a half months later. In that morass of emotional turmoil at the end of February, I very clearly learned that sometimes the brick wall I rant and rail against is actually a God-wall. It’s okay if I want to continue to fight at it, but I would feel a whole lot better if I would simply lean on-to or in-to it/Him and REST there. He’s got this, thank you very much, and He has promised His timing beats every controlling impulse or desperate need I have ever experienced.
***side note before pressing on – there is a fine line and a HUGE difference between leaning into one’s sorrow and flailing about, wallowing in it. ***
Back to 23 December, 2014. Morning. As I drove toward the office, I prayed, really more like begged, loudly and tearfully, for mercy and grace, for relief, for just enough stiff in my lip to survive the workday. First patients of the day? Two littles and the daddy of one of my favorite families. This guy’s got a sick wife at home (flu), two sick littles, and two more at home. Christmas is two days away. Add to that, he knows me pretty well. NO chance of my swollen, tear-sodden face escaping notice (I do NOT have a poker face). He is so patient with me as I adjust myself into doctor mode; he allows, no, he asks me to be the authority and reassure his child about flu-related stuff while the only thing I am really capable of exuding is my own human broken-ness. As the three of them left, just kind eyes and faith in me as his kids’ “Dr. Abby.” No irritation and no frustration; rather, acceptance. Yes. Sometimes I have to pray for the strength to let the tears come. . .
This past Tuesday, 23 December, 2014, I did receive grace sufficient unto the day, and I was mostly able to contain myself in order to attend to the many needs of the day. I also received grace gifts in the form of my sweet mister understanding and accepting me exactly as I was, and in sweet sweet relief which came unbidden when I arrived home. . .
Our oldest, Abbey (Greg’s first born and my bonus-daughter), had just arrived home for Christmas after a school trip to Austria, and we were all seven of us together around kitchen table for a dinner of simple spaghetti and roasted asparagus, a family favorite. After dinner, at less than two days until Christmas, there was much that needed doing by this mama of five.
Instead, I snugged down into old couch, surrounded by all five littles, my mister, and my bestie Gus, to hear all about Abbey’s trip. Then, indulgence to beat all, we watched a wonderful life and love and heart affirming film – the One Hundred Foot Journey (you absolutely should, if you have not already!)
23 December, 2014. I worked all day, heart sick and completely overwhelmed by the stress of “Christmas.” That night, I accomplished nothing. Not one gift was wrapped, nor one note, nor even one thought penned. I sat in the midst of our cluttered living room surrounded by my favorite seven (of COURSE Gus is in that number), and loved. And received love. I got the
chance to bear witness to my mister’s deepest joy at having us all together (truly, my favorite Christmas gift this year). And in all that, yes, my Father, my Abba, poured out His love and flooded my parched spirit with joy, quiet and deep and true – sweet relief for this weary soul. Really, isn’t that what grounds this season – this amazing excessive season? God’s love poured out to a sin-starved world in the form of a tiny baby boy, born in a dwelling fit only for livestock? God’s great love for all human-kind, expressed in the miracle boy – this Messiah, this Prince of Peace and King of Kings – this Immanuel? Sweet relief, indeed.
My prayer as I write on this Christmas night is simply: that the God of Adam and Abraham and of all the universe meet you wherever you are in whatever manner you can and will hear in just such a way that your life is never the same again. That you will learn, too, the shalom of holy tears, and the relief of holy joy.