Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Defying the Odds


The Christmas season is my very favorite time of year -- the lights, the lush garlands and trees, the great food, and more cheerful people. I love everything about it and could probably live in a Christmas environment for the majority of the year, especially if there is snow. I know most people enjoy snow on Christmas, but I enjoy it ALL the time. I can never get enough of it, perhaps with the exception of driving to the UP of Michigan in a blizzard in the dark. There is something about the preparation and anticipation of this season that comforts me and makes me feel incredibly joyful, forgetting some of my usual stress and worry. It is the waiting for Christmas that I enjoy, much more than I do the actual day. Once the actual day arrives I start to feel the blues tapping on my door, fully settling in with a bowl of popcorn and their feet on the coffee table the next day.

For some reason, this year, I am feeling the blues arrogantly inching toward my doorstep a little earlier. I find that I am living more within the world of Lent, rather than Advent. I have been reflecting on all my mistakes the last several weeks -- kicking myself over stupid decisions and guilting myself over the things I haven't yet done that I know I should. I have been stupid, selfish, lazy, and cranky. I have put off responsibilities that should've received attention, because I was either too scared or too lazy to deal with them.

It frustrates me that I am allowing myself to be deterred from fully enjoying my favorite time of year, but I suppose it makes sense. The end of the year is a natural time to be reflective -- to evaluate what I've done, what I need to do, what I need to change. This last year was already a year of big and important changes for me. And I think that the next requires changes even bigger and even more transformative. I must become more than what I am, more of what I need to be. More than what I feel capable of.

Jesus came into this world superceding what anyone would have thought possible. I am sure Mary and Joseph probably both experienced their shares of doubts and disbelief. It's impossible to know what they thought, but it is human nature to doubt oneself and be hesitant to believe in something so incredible. I can imagine that Joseph most likely doubted in his abilities to take care of a wife and child, let alone the child of God. I am sure there were times when he considered backing out. It would have been much easier. But he didn't. I wonder what tremendous pressure he must have felt, and how heavily it must have weighed upon his spirit. He could've turned back at any moment -- when he found out about a pregnancy that he knew couldn't be his, when he found out they were in danger politically, when they were left with nowhere to go but a stable. But he didn't.

I can imagine that Mary must have feared how she would be able to face Joseph, her family, and her community, knowing full well that her situation would elicit much judgment and possibly even danger. And I am sure she also would have doubted her own abilities in being the vessel of God. Can you fathom how unworthy she must have felt? I know how unworthy I sometimes feel just to have minor positive things happen to me, let alone being chosen to carry the savior of the world. What must that have felt like? Flattering? Confusing? Terrifying? Exhausting? Perhaps, a little of them all? If it were me, I think that in the moment I received the overwhelming and terrifying news from Gabriel I would have pleaded with God to choose someone else. I would have moaned and complained that I couldn't possibly be the right person for the job. But Mary didn't. She could have given up at any time, and moved on with her life as if none of it had ever happened. But she didn't.

Mary and Joseph not only dealt with what was handed to them, but treated it as an honor and a gift. No matter how many doubts and how much fear infaltrated their thoughts, they graciously accepted their duty without animosity. They never retreated from the purpose that they had been given.

The last few years have been difficult ones for me in many ways. I have been constantly pushed and prodded to keep changing and growing, leaving my soul and spirit stretched and a little bruised. I feel exhausted. I have transformed so much already, but know that I have so much further yet to go. I am not fully convinced that I want to keep getting pushed right now. I often wonder why I can't get just a little break -- to be okay staying just as I am for a little while. I sometimes feel so overwhelmed with where I need to go and how far away it seems to be from where I am. Sometimes I really want to give up. And sometimes . . . I do.

Mary and Joseph didn't give up, even if they had wanted to. They were pushed and prodded, and kept transforming as often as they breathed. With each movement of air in and out of their lungs they were changing -- as a living, breathing work of God's art. Transformation IS life and breath. It is what makes us "live," rather than simply "survive." And as much as it sometimes hurts, I'd rather "live." I "survived" for a long time . . . and I am not quite ready to go back there.

I honestly don't know just how I will make the necessary changes that are long overdue. I suspect Mary and Joseph weren't quite sure themselves of how they would handle the struggles that lain in their futures. They kept walking -- walking into scary and unknown territory, hoping that the grace of God would help them find their way. I suppose that is all I can do, all any of us can do. I pray that God's grace will lead me to where I need to go. And that it will provide all the air my lungs need . . . just breathe. May God's grace find you all, and may you feel peace wherever you are in your own transformation. May we all become more than we ever thought possible.

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