I don’t want to sound ungrateful but Christmas left me wanting more this year (as it does most years).
I got some nice swag and spent quality time with my family and friends but as usual, after the holidays are over I feel a kind of spiritual discontent, kind of like I did after the LOST finale. Unresolved…
Each year I commit to making Christmas more deeply profound for me and my family. Each year I fail at that task. I tend to feel neurotic in the weeks leading up to Christmas with the cleaning, shopping, spending, wrapping things up at work before taking time off, and generally tying up loose ends. The closer it comes to Christmas Eve the more anxious and unsettled I become. I am short tempered, crabby, tired, and not filled with grace.
Christmas morning was filled with frantic activity with bows and wrapping paper flying everywhere. Once the pillaging settles down we stuff ourselves so full of food that we can barely move, gluttony at its finest. After the food settles enough we load the van with our spoils and it’s off to the next stop. We do this twice more over the next couple of days.
Our New Year’s Eve tradition for the last 10 years has been to open our home to any Jr. High or Sr. High students that need a safe alternative to typical NYE endeavors. We usually have anywhere from 15 – 30 students. I look forward to this time. I am energized by being around students, but not this year. I’m tired. I just want to go to bed and sleep until, well, until I’m done sleeping. I’m exhausted, mentally depressed, physically out of shape, and spiritually empty. Stick a fork in me, I’m done.
After the new year has come I become aware of a growing need for a new rhythm. The current pace is not sustainable. Viktor Frankl says his book Man’s Search for Meaning, “Not every internal conflict is necessarily neurotic; some amount of conflict is normal and healthy. In a similar sense suffering is not always a pathological phenomenon; rather than being a symptom of neurosis, suffering may well be a human achievement, especially if the suffering grows out of existential frustration”. I am existentially frustrated.
I decorate my spiritual life with the spiritual disciplines and practices of our faith but more often than not it’s a sham. I wear these disciplines like badges so that you will know how much more spiritual I am than you and others. There, I said it. I am a fraud. I don’t want to be a fraud but it is so much easier than actually becoming disciplined. I never feel like I measure up to others. I am an overweight, lazy, insecure, self-centered, angry, attention-seeking, and have a tendency to be narcissistic.
Whew! That felt good to get off my chest, but why am I telling all of you this?
Because, confession is good for the soul…
Before I can move forward into 2014 I first have to let go of the baggage I’ve dragged with me through 2013. I’m not talking about the cheap grace kind of letting go but a deep understanding of the grace that is waiting for me when I confess. See, forgiveness and mercy are only accessible when we understand our need for it. 1 John 1:9 tells us that IF we confess He is faithful and just to forgive. I desperately need the grace and mercy that transforms. I am a broken hammer trying to nail myself back together and that is just silly and exhausting. I am broken beyond human repair. I need the baby that came in the manger. I need the Jew that healed during His time on earth. I need the Christ that has power to overcome death, because without that power we can do nothing. I need you, who are infused with that very same power and it strong when we are unified in mission. I need the hope that comes when God and His people are aligned in their will. And so do you.
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” – Titus 2:11-12 NIV
Coordinator of The Shelter at Simply Youth Ministry Conference 2014 (psst… deadline to reg for SYMC is 1.15!)