I’ve written about my faith here before. It’s an integral part of who I am. But, truth be told, it hasn’t been an integral part of my life recently.
2019, in particular, has presented me with a number of challenges and a fair amount of heartache. Watching my father slip away from us and enter into the late stages of Alzheimer’s, watching my mother endure that loss while being his primary caregiver, losing my beloved golden retriever, struggling to navigate blended family issues, moving, battling through an exceedingly tough trial, coming very close to but ultimately missing out on a terrific job opportunity, encountering unanticipated expenses — I’ve been…preoccupied. At best.
Rather than lean into my faith, I’ve compartmentalized it. I’ve not lost it; not felt compelled to rail at God or cry out, “Why me?!” as I may have at other trying times of my life. But I’ve drifted away from it and relegated it to background, decorative status. I’ve not spent any time of late in Bible study and can’t tell you the last time I attended services.
With everything going on, I was running far, far behind in terms of Christmas preparation this year. I still had several items to pick up on Christmas Eve and an appetizer to prepare for the annual gathering at my brother and sister-in-law’s house. Making it to Christmas Eve services didn’t appear to be in the cards.
Thankfully, my church airs on-line services. I checked on Tuesday and verified — they would be on-line at 5:00 pm. That worked! I could watch the service while I prepped the appetizer and did some last-minute wrapping. It felt good to know I’d be able to squeeze it in.
As usual, the music was beautiful and the service remarkable. And when the pastor spoke of those who have drifted…”maybe it’s because we’re not at home, maybe it’s because something happened at work, maybe we just got really busy but, God, we’re not even really sure what to do with Christmas besides go through the motions…” I recognized myself all too well. That’s exactly what I’ve been.
Not long ago, as my father’s prognosis became grim, I remarked to my sister that I just felt…numb. About him. About everything. Certainly, I’ve had a few moments throughout the year where I’ve gotten emotional and lost my composure. But, overall, I’ve remained largely in this sort of detached mode. I don’t believe it’s denial. I think it’s simply self-preservation. Life’s not going to stop coming at me in order to indulge any meltdowns on my part — or even the need to catch my breath. I have to figure out how to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
But I do know — I know — I’m not doing that on my own. It’s like that old “Footprints” poem that used to be so prevalent on posters and plaques:
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”
Unlike earlier times in my life, when my faith wavered and I questioned God’s presence, I’ve known — and taken comfort in the fact — that He is with me, carrying me through the rough spots. It’s given me a sense of peace that I longed for and often floundered as I sought it in my younger days. I’m so grateful for that.
But, as I listened to the pastor’s words Christmas Eve, I realized that I have been taking it for granted. Just as we take for granted that our parents will always be there to support and encourage and love us, our siblings will always be there to squabble and play with, our children will always be there to rely on and look up to us. When we are loved, we know it — it lends us a sense of peace and security. But it sometimes lulls us into complacency.
I’m thankful for the reminder of the wondrous gift, the nudge to not simply go through the motions of Christmas but to respond to the gift of it. To make room for it. At the end of the service, the pastor spoke to the enormity of the universe — and of the Creator of all of it — and asked an extraordinarily important question:
Will you make room in your life for the God of the Universe? #Christmas
— Susie Moore (@SmoosieQ) December 25, 2019
“Will you make room in your life for the God of the Universe?”
Or will you take Him — and the gift of His love — for granted; squeeze it out of your life while you fill it with all of your busy-ness and worries?
Two things happened on Christmas that really helped drive this point home.
First, there were two different (young?) men on Twitter — people I didn’t know or follow — who got tweeted into my timeline with messages of despair. Both sounded suicidal. Like they’d almost given up. They were met with hundreds — if not thousands — of kind messages; people reaching out to them with words of encouragement, inviting them to DM, letting them know they were valued — they were loved. Lots of prayers were voiced to them and about them. I kept checking both their timelines over the next few hours, hoping they’d seen — and felt — the love lifting them up. Both have since responded — indicated they’re still hanging in there and have been buoyed by the outpouring of love and support.
Second, as my family opened gifts yesterday and my father looked on at the chaos from his wheelchair — sometimes seemingly dialed in, more often far away — I felt sad contemplating what he’s going through but glad he was there to spend Christmas with us after all. And then, as my sister patted his arm, he leaned over and very gently kissed hers. It was such a tender moment. Such a reflection of his sweetness and of his fatherly love, even though his role with his kids has largely reversed at this point.
It’s easy, when you consider the vastness of the universe — and the smallness of each of us — to wonder: “Who am I, that you would care about me?” And yet, Christmas reminds us that He does. If you believe, once you believe (and I do), that the God who spoke all of this into being loves you, isn’t it time to make room in your life and in your heart for Him?