The Best Christmas Gift!
Bah…humbug! ‘Tis the season! Peace on earth, good will towards men! Yet, there seems to be a lot of stress and depression during the holiday season. Where is that peace? Where is the joy?
This past Sunday our pastor gave a sermon about a plan on how to survive the holidays. There were two main parts to the plan. Part A of the plan is when relatives or irritating friends visit for the holidays and start talking about all the things you want to roll your eyes about, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT! If that doesn’t work and you still want to slap someone or say something antagonizing, go to Part B. Part B is refer back to Part A!
I actually thought that was pretty good advice. As I went about grabbing those Black Friday deals, I observed people who were impatient, bitter, downtrodden, and angry. At times, I wanted to say something snarky. But I remembered the two main points!
I wondered if my checkout clerk’s angry attitude was because of something I had done. Had I not smiled? Was it because there was no tag on the item and assistance had to be called? Was it because the “chip” on my card wasn’t working well, and the credit card machine didn’t have the “tap” feature? It DOES take such a long time to swipe!
As I looked around at the people in the long lines, I reminded myself that anger is a secondary emotion…it always is. So, I played a little game as I waited. I looked at their faces and their carts and began to wonder. Were they angry because they’re frustrated? Are they sick or in pain? Do they feel slighted? Has their pride been wounded? Are they feeling unloved while having to stand in this long line buying gifts for people who have not been treating them well? Do they feel unfairly treated? Or maybe they are just lonely and feeling vulnerable. Perhaps some are afraid to go home. Are they sad because they have recently lost someone close, or because someone they love is ill? Is their marriage failing? Is their job in jeopardy? Do they feel pressured or trapped?
There are so many secondary reasons people resort to anger. When I am angry, If I dig deep enough, and if I am honest with myself, I can almost always identify the underlying reason. And sometimes that’s hard to face. It’s not always a pretty picture. (Next time you’re angry, try asking yourself what the underlying issue is!)
We all experience frustration, loss, and hardship in this life. Each time a hardship rears its ugly head, we must make a decision. We must choose how to respond to these adversities. Will we try to stuff them away and ignore them? Will we become bitter and angry? Will we become beaten down and give up? Or will we allow ourselves to be broken, willing God to put the pieces back together again however He sees fit?
So many times in my life I have felt like Humpty Dumpty…I felt broken into so many pieces,
with the thought that no one could possibly put them back together again. But I have learned there is nothing too difficult for God. The Potter can take these pieces of clay and put them back together again in such a way that I never could have imagined.
I have learned that being broken does not mean being continually sad. Nor does it mean I am not a complete person with value. Brokenness means I have a change of attitude. I choose to submit to His desires and plan for my life. There may be tears…there may be grief…there may be loneliness for a while. But joy does come in the morning!
I believe God desires that we be willing to be broken…that we be willing to trust Him with our future. Humility, brokenness, surrender, discipline, and giving up control go against our very stubborn human nature. Yet, these characteristics seem to be exactly what God is trying to cultivate in us.
I know that God created me in His image. And, I know that all He created is good. I am cherished. It somehow seems easier to let God have control when things seem to be going well. I doubt anyone looks forward to going through those times of brokenness. It takes courage to give up control…to give up your dreams…to give up the plans you had formulated for yourself or for your family. It takes courage to live on the edge, not knowing what will happen, but knowing that He has it all under control.
But it also takes complete surrender on our part! King David (who was called a “man after God’s own heart”) had an illicit love affair with a married woman, got her pregnant, and then sent her husband to the front lines of battle to be killed. The prophet, Nathan, confronted the king on behalf of God. David could have killed him and buried the event. But instead, David expressed his brokenness and sorrow in Psalm 51. I love that Psalm! In verses 16-17 David acknowledges that God has a special closeness for those with a broken and contrite heart.
“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it:
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
It’s comforting to know we have a loving Father who does not despise us when we come to him broken. But the concept of a good and loving father is not always easy for everyone. The example of such a father in our own lives may not have always been there.
I once heard someone speak on the “Father hole” in each of us. The premise is that each of us have a hole in us that only God can fill. Perhaps this concept of such a “hole” was so poignant to me because I grew up having no idea what it was like to have a father. I thought everyone else’s family to be perfect and mine to be extremely odd. (I now know any family with more than one person is most likely dysfunctional in some way! 😊)
God became my best friend. Beginning in first grade, I walked home from school and stopped by a Baptist church that was open. I snuck in the front door and hid under a pew on the soft carpet. I talked in a whisper to God and told Him how my day went. It became a weekday ritual. He was so real to me. At times I felt as though I could feel His arms around me.
As I grew, I clung to those Scripture verses that deal with the fatherless. Psalm 68:5 told me that God would be a father to the fatherless. I believed that. Yet, at times there still seemed to be that gaping hole. Even though I knew He was there, I needed some skin! I missed the laughter, the play, the hugs, the kisses, the love of an earthly father. Even so, God continued to nurture me, protect me, provide for me, and grow me. He provided for me far better than any earthly father could have!
Time passed; I grew up, got married, and had my own child. But history seemed to be repeating itself. Two weeks after I found out I was pregnant, my husband was diagnosed with cancer. He died when my daughter was 5 months old. She, too, grew up without an earthly father. I shared with her all the verses I clung to growing up. Yet, there were still nights when she would weep in my arms, not understanding why she didn’t have a daddy there to hold her and play with her. She, too, needed skin! I shared with her that we had the best Father in the whole world, and an unbreakable bond developed that would carry both of us through some very difficult times.
No matter what struggle you may be going through, God intimately wants to be a part of your life. And He wants to put people in your life that will “give you some skin.” He wants to take the broken pieces and make a mosaic that is beautiful! Never forget that God makes beautiful things. The catch is you have to let Him.
Christmas season is a celebration of Jesus’ birthday. So, I guess we should be giving gifts to Him! I hope this Christmas you will consider giving Him the only true gift you can! That gift can’t be bought in a store. It can’t be wrapped up in a box. It may not be very pretty, and it certainly isn’t new. This Christmas, I hope each of us is able to say, “Me! My gift is me…all I am, all I ever hope to be. I give up control and trust that You, my Father, will make something beautiful!”
Have a wonderful Christmas and may the Reason for the season bring an incredible joy, peace, and beauty to your heart!
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