Wouldn’t it be nice if the Hallmark version of the holiday emerged victorious in all our homes? Instead, for many of us, it turns out a little more like “Christmas Vacation.” The reality is, even with the best laid plans, executed with grace and efficiency, people are a part of the holiday and, sadly bring to the table emotions and baggage. Maybe that is not your experience, and if not, I pray you know how blessed you are. For me, the family strife seems to creep its way in, no matter what I do. This year, proved no different. An ongoing volatile relationship exploded once again, and to round it all out nicely, the dreaded stomach virus has over the course of a week taken immediate and extended family out one by one. It’s given new meaning to “survival of the fittest”.
I have a tenuous relationship with my mother. There are many reasons for it, most a result of life circumstances in and out of our control, her struggle with depression, and an innate desire as a daughter to want to fix things, do enough to obtain approval, maintain peace… For years I allowed those desires to almost consume me. I took on every need, every disconnect and feverishly sought to find a solution, a way to mend the fences. In the end though, I did little more than take on another person’s anger and dissatisfaction. I was changed and in return able to do little to create change. Last year, all things came to a climax-yes, at a holiday. It was devastating. It was painful. It was terrifying. It was the end of me, and the beginning of truly learning to let go of the things that bound me and learn to live freely in Christ. I look back now and wonder why I didn’t let go earlier. Why I didn’t realize that the struggling was not a part of my spiritual growth, but more a battle to hold on to “earthly ways” and a failure to trust God. Beth Moore, in Breaking Free says “..the most debilitating loss for a Christian is not the loss of a loved one, but the loss of faith.” It is hard to admit a loss of faith. Too often we think of it in broad terms-walking away from a relationship with Christ. If we look at it in broad terms we can protect ourselves from having to face the harsh reality of our spiritual condition-the lack of faith. As a Christian it is heart wrenching to come to terms with a faith problem, yet anything binding us/oppressing us is just that. So, while I hated last year’s events, they were the beginning of looking deep within myself and coming face to face with my lack of faith issue. And so, this year, through much prayer, quiet reflection and pursuit of God’s word, He has begun to restore. The relationship with my mother is not restored. It may never be fully restored, for some of the work is hers to choose to do. He has begun to restore me, free me to live abundantly as the person He created me to be. He has shown me cycles need not be repeated. He has shown me I must trust Him to see my mother through her journey on the path she chooses. He has shown me I can not live “for” others, but can live freely “with” others. And as happens when we let go, have faith, He grows in us the very image of all we have hoped to be.
As for the stomach virus, well, not much to learn from that. Life happens. Sometimes you just roll with the punches. You get back up, you clean up and carry on. In the end, we all survive. Some of us may not grow or seek a new path, but some of us will. We survive, but more importantly we chose the path less traveled, we get through it and we thrive.