The Struggle of the Holidays

The struggle is real.

The struggle: unending tension in the mind, in the heart, in the attitude toward those around me. The tension of ambivalence. The tension of going through the motions.

The tension of being misunderstood and trying to explain yourself but coming up empty.

The holidays are a struggle bus for me. Well, let’s be honest, most of life is a struggle bus for me, but the holidays more so. I am a self-proclaimed “Scrooge,” though that perhaps is not totally accurate. I am more of what we call ‘ambivalent’ (thanks, Michael). I don’t necessarily hate the holidays, but I can’t say I experience much excitement over them either. And I honestly don’t mind others being excited about it either. I hope people do. It’s filled with pretty lights, gift exchanges, sugar-filled parties, and excuses to be with people (which I’m always for).

But is that really what it all is?

What happens on December 26? or even January 2?

The sense of…..disappointment, maybe?

Why do I always feel disappointed when it’s all over? When I have to spend more time taking down all of the stuff I put up, I toss another gift in the pile of stuff that I have great intentions of using but don’t, everything goes back to normal.

Surely, just surely, there has to be more than this. My expectations can’t handle it anymore. The heart longing for something of significance.

The heart longing for the God in flesh.

A few years ago, when I really was a Scrooge, a friend mentioned that instead of focusing on the unfulfilled expectations, focus on redeeming Christmas. I wasn’t really sure what he meant at the time, but I liked the idea so I went for it and kind of figured it out as I went. I searched for real meaning of the season (as cliche as that sounds). I searched for meaningful songs, experiences, truth in Scripture. I did come to see so much beauty in a season that held such petty ugliness to me. I came to see how people in darkness had seen such a great Light, how the weary world rejoices, the dawn of redeeming grace.

It wasn’t really about the holidays at all. It was about how God had broken through this incredibly dark world through humble means to fulfill His promise to save the world. It was about how God had broken though my own personal darkness with His brilliant and longed for Light. It’s left me breathless like downing a cool drink of water in a desert.

But yet, at the same time, I was still frustrated and I couldn’t figure out why until just recently when fruitlessly trying to explain to someone my frustration and ambivalence.

That was it. I felt like it was fruitless. I felt as if I was trying to explain quantum physics to a 3 year old, expecting them to understand. Not that the person I was explaining it to didn’t understand, but to a degree they didn’t understand. They didn’t understand my own journey. They didn’t know the darkness I carried, the one that longs for the Light, and the Light of Christ that not only came into the world, but came into the deepest parts of my heart because of what that Light did when He came into the world.

I’ve been getting so frustrated because I want others to see what I’ve seen. I want them to see deeper than just the Christmas trees and the shopping lists. I want them to stop and really marvel at what the Incarnation really meant for Israel, for the world, and for us. How come we just sing Christmas carols like they mean nothing when they should ignite our souls with excitement and worship? How come we spend so much time discovering how to get the best deals and spend no time understanding what Advent is?

Perhaps that is the real source of my ambivalence. Not a hatred for all things holiday related. Just a frustration I realize comes from more wrong expectations.

My own  heart has seen so much darkness, brokenness, inside and out. I see the brokenness around me, in the news, in the eyes of people I pass.

But that darkness and that brokenness doesn’t stay that way in the way of the Light. When I stop to dwell on that, I do get excited about Christmas, and I know I have to be ok if only I understand that. That is the journey God has brought and is bringing me through.

And all I know is that I will keep redeeming Christmas and I’ll keep sharing what it truly means for me. If someone understands, wonderful. If not, there’s Light and grace for that too.

The only frustration I should really have is how what to substitute for butter in the cookies I’m making because I forgot to get butter at the store.

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