Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holes in the holidays

For the last three Christmases as we unpack ornaments to dangle them from our tree, the decorating has carried a ribbon of melancholy. So many of our decorations come from my mother-in-law, a year-long Christmas lover. Three years ago just before her favorite season, she passed away unexpectedly. Her memorial reception was actually decked out for Christmas in her honor. My husband, then 28, was deeply stricken. And my younger two children weren’t old enough to have any memories of her.

But by far, we’re not the only ones who feel holes that the wind blows through at Christmastime. I have at least three friends who will grapple with their first shared-custody Christmas this season, a heartbreaking reminder of the past year’s trauma and loss in their families. Another friend will endure only her second Christmas without her mom, a wound that still feels painfully fresh. And though it seems slight and small in comparison, I wince at yet another Christmas without one of my sisters who lives overseas, now coupled with another sister’s last Christmas before she heads to Thailand for two years. Despite the glimmer in my kids’ eyes; their storybooks with magical, picture-perfect tales of Christmas redemption; and a Christmas tree that nearly always makes my heart lift, reality tears at me.

Grief seems to swell at Christmas, when, more than any other time, hopes are high for above-average beauty, happiness, and perfection. But frankly, on this earth, my hopes will nearly always fall flat as an under baked soufflĂ©. Not to be a pessimist, but after people brought sin to God’s flawless, “very good” magnificence in the Garden of Eden, we were each destined for lives full of gaping, searing holes. And even those of us who’ve found the ultimate Missing Piece—my overseas sister’s Hebraic tattoo probably says it best: we’re finally satisfied—we’re still in the land where vicious kings wipe out entire populations of baby boys; where people kill the Son of God in God’s Name as his mother looks on and a sword pierces her own soul, too.

We’ve still been created for another place. One Advent has been fully realized, and another still finds us “in lonely exile here until the Son of God appears.” Still waiting for Heaven.
As I sit and type, I’m praying for you moms who are nearly bent over inside with pain past, present, or future. I’m praying you’re swept up by the Prince of true Peace who’s even greater than your grief—and by his hope that lifts both your head and your heart.

May you be truly satisfied this Christmas.

The biblical view of things is resurrection—not a future that is just a
consolation for the life we never had but a restoration of the life you always
wanted. This means that every horrible thing that ever happened will not only be
undone and repaired but will in some way make the eventual glory and joy even
greater. (Tim Keller, The Reason for God)

2 comments:

Soaring High said...

Janelle, this is exactly what I needed to read today. It's so not been my "ideal" Christmas this year due to grief that seems to scream louder than joy. Your words ring so true and thank you for sharing.

Eric & Sarah said...

I just read this today. My mom had a heart attack on Christmas Eve 3 years ago and died 3 days later. I loved the way you addressed the sharply surreal combination of joy and sadness that are there this time of year for so many like myself. Sometimes it's hard to find a balance between the two extremes. It can be exhausting, but I think God also gives us these times to bring things to light that maybe we would rather stuff down and not deal with. Thank you so much for sharing!