***Merry Christmas our beloved HopeIsHard family. Our themes are different each week, and a new one will start tomorrow, but for today – this post is especially for any heart that is hurting. It was originally published three years ago, when I needed hope desperately, and has been adapted for you for today. Our prayer is that the birth of Christ will mean something more to you now than it ever has, not in spite of your hurt, but right in the middle of it. XO.***
Each year on the weekend after the ball drops in Times Square – we’re all bemoaning taking down the decorations, dragging the tree to the curb, and we’re wondering out loud if maybe just for a little-while-longer we can keep up the twinkle lights. I don’t think any of us are ever ready to wipe out the glisten and the glitter, especially when what’s outside is just cold and gray.
We want it to stay sparkly as long as it can, don’t we?
Because the wrappings and the ribbons put a little hope in our hearts.
From the last week of November until the first week of January, we essentially hit ‘pause’ on all that’s painful and we go to parties and sip cider and champagne, and turn a broken world into something pretty and festive. Something to look forward to. Something magical.
But there really is no pause button for pain… no way to keep it from coming.
And this year, more than any other, pain rang big and loud!
Death drug it’s long dark cloak around every festive corner of this holiday.
On Christmas Day last year, my family and I were struck a blow.
And out of those sharp tears and new worries, I awoke the next morning to a voice calming me from so many miles away. That man who spoke gently to my heart on that December 26th, and every day after, proved to calm me, comfort me, and love me more than anyone ever had. He was my gift last Christmas. He was was my gift every single day onward.
And then this holiday, he chose our separation, he chose the end of “us”… and the hope and true love and forever-promises that had been cradled in my heart were suddenly the deepest, deepest pain I’d ever known.
He walked away as lovingly and honorably as possible, but in that moment he kissed me goodbye and called me ‘sweetheart’ for the last time, it was as though my heart was physically ripped out of my body. I felt emotional, spiritual, and physical pain unlike ever before in my life.
In the days to follow, as his already-wrapped Christmas and anniversary and birthday presents sat on the top of the stairs, as those penned-in hearts on my calendar laughed at me, as my keen eyes saw memories of us on every street in this city, I have swung between praying God wouldn’t wake me up in the morning to praying God wouldn’t waste this pain. I have not stopped loving him. I can’t just stop loving him. I don’t think love works like that.
I have been shown love in uncomfortable places. I’ve crumpled into a friend’s arms screaming when she showed up with soup and I’ve been prayed with over the phone after I broke down at the dentist’s office. Pain won’t stay stuffed in the shoebox where you hide the lovenotes he wrote, despair doesn’t stay hunkered down under the blanket waiting for you to slide back between the sheets at night where you used to rest your head on his chest… Pain and despair and fear and hurt and anger and grief braid themselves into a leaden chain and then they snake their way around your neck. They bind your wrists and ankles and lock the heaviest of padlocks over that hole in your chest, and you feel the weight of each link every single waking moment.
My loss pales in comparison to what some around me are facing. In the last few weeks, a friend lost her mother unexpectedly, another pal lost her beloved grandmother, and today I walked past the open casket at the funeral of a friend.
72 hours ago my home was full with my tribe doing their darndest to make a holiday season, though sad, still shiny. As we unwound decorative gold ribbon and whipped up dessert recipes, I got the news that a sweet friend had died in her sleep. I sat on the stairs in disbelief while everyone downstairs buzzed with that holiday sparkle.
We want to push the pause button on pain.
So they buzzed, and I cried and stood out in the cold to compose myself.
I believe in God…
If for no other reason than I find creation to be undeniable evidence for His existence. I believe in Him as Father, Judge, Warrior, Great Physician and Jehoveh-Jireh. When I pray I tend to address my verbal heavenward letters with His name at the top.
I believe in the Holy Spirit…
Though, raised Baptist, I can be itchy and uncomfortable trying to wrap my mind around just what He is and exactly what He does, I know we’ve been promised a Comforter, and I believe in His continuing work as He takes up residence in our insides.
I believe in Jesus…
I believe He was born and that every inerrant word in Scripture about His life on earth and His beautiful ministry is accurate. I believe that He was tortured and murdered on a cross for our sins and that He is the only path to eternal life.
But after that moment at 12 years old when I prayed and accept ‘Christ into my heart’ … I don’t know what else to do with Him.
I pray to God.
I wait for the Spirit to work and move and direct and comfort.
But what do I do with this Jesus who died for me?
If these days are simply about tinsel and garland and gifting… well, then broken hearts and all the gravesides visited surely do dim the beauty.
But what if these days are truly about the Jesus who came to right all that is wrong with our world and all it wasn’t intended to be…?
If the beauty is actually found in the fact that the death & pain & despair & hopelessness, which was never God’s original design, was CONQUERED by that baby whose birth is my Christmas, than there is no more beautiful string of days than these holidays.
…or there would be no beauty.
Jesus HAD to come – because Death drags his dark cloak up and down every street in our world.
Jesus HAD to come – because we each have a leaden chain of pain & despair & hopelessness padlocked over our hearts. This Son of God, that I don’t always know how to include in my everyday life, is the One whose existence is making my LIFE possible.
He is the One vanquishing death and offering not just salvation for eternity but salvation FOR TODAY… hand in hand with the Spirit and the Father.
Truth be told, there is no ‘better’ time to face searing pain than the holidays… but only if we shift our lens to what the holidays truly are about.
Here I stood putting my hope in wrappings and ribbon, and I’ve sunk under the weight of what Jesus was created to carry. I’ve let heartbreak & death ruin my holidays. I’ve let the casket mean more than the manger, when the holiday exists because Jesus came to repair and restore.
THE MANGER HAS CONQUERED THE CASKET!
Loss, grief, pain, and hurt are all very real. They exist because the enemy exists. They exist to ruin God’s intended plan and beauty. They exist to ruin life itself; to tarnish every good thing.
So while we stand here together, some of us with tears catching the glow of the tree’s twinkle lights as they slip down our cheeks, smack-dab in the middle of a less than sparkly holiday season, with armfuls of hopelessness and lists long with questions…
Is that Baby Jesus in the manger the answer?
Originally published on witterson.com, this post was edited for today.