We’re officially in holiday season. Tomorrow, my friends and family in the US will celebrate Thanksgiving. And then the Christmas decorations come out, the tree goes up and before we know it we’re singing Jingle Bells. Silent Night. O Come All Ye Faithful.
But there are those around us who do not want to sing this year. Those who feel they don’t have a lot to be thankful for. Those who ache and wrestle with wounds so deep that healing seems impossible. I know them. You do too. And on some level, we’ve been where they are.
She comes to me one Sunday after service. It’s been awhile, years really, since we’ve talked and I’m surprised to see her here. And she tells me her story. Why she’s alone now and fighting the battle of her life. But she still smiles somehow and keeps saying God is good. Keeps saying it.
And I have to work hard to not shake my head. Because, really? All I can think is, Jesus, where are you in this? How can this madness, this horrific heartache, possibly be part of a plan that works all things together for good? And my second thought is, there but for the grace of God go I. Because, this? This is my worst nightmare.
That’s my trigger. Those roots run deep.
When you know that for the first few days of your life, you were left alone, unwanted, unnamed, unloved, abandoned by the very one who gave you life…well…you never quite get over that. You slap smiley faces on it and show the world the happy family photos and proclaim that it all worked out in the end. But. Still.
Still, forty-nine years later, I wrestle with it.
So I feel that friend’s pain perhaps a little more deeply. I lay awake some nights and wonder when the day will come that I too will be alone. Because I’m a wreck. A mess, really. I just can’t seem to get it right and I’m sure that one day it’ll catch up to me. Because why would anyone want to put up with this? Yet, they do. They choose to stay. They choose me.
What do we do then, with the broken?
Words like faith, acceptance, forgiveness and love join hands and dance ’round my mind until I have to pay attention because they just won’t stop. And they’re kicking up a lot of dust.
Do I have faith? Yes. Most days. Some days I have more, some days I scrape the bottom of the barrel to find it. But it is there.
Acceptance? Okay, that one smarts a bit, but I don’t have a choice. My history is mine. It can’t be changed. So yes, I accept it.
That’s the kicker.
I don’t know how to forgive on the level it would take to break those kinds of chains. I never have. Coming to terms with a thing but truly moving past it are two entirely different tasks. Perhaps if I had told her then, my birthmother, on the one occasion that we got to meet before she died, that I forgave her…perhaps that pain might not still simmer. But I didn’t think she’d care, really. I didn’t think it mattered so much.
And finally. Love.
They say love is a choice, not a feeling. You can fall in love, but you choose to stay. I guess that’s true. I suppose if you’re loving, really loving, someone on the level we’re called to, as Christ loves the church, you just do. I can never wrap my brain around that one. And I wonder if I’ll ever love myself that way.
So. What do we do then, with the broken?
We can’t fix the pain. I know that full well. I’ve tried. I keep trying. And I keep failing. Until finally it occurs to me to let it go. Slow learner that I am. Why do I hold onto this crap? All God wants is for me to be free. Really free. Do I think the cross was just for kicks?
Ever try to take away a toy from a toddler when they don’t want to give it up? Screaming and kicking and wailing and you wonder who the demon-possessed child is…but then it’s gone. And there is blessed silence. Then comes the laughter.
How quickly they forget. And forgive.
Perhaps that is what child-like faith is all about. Give it up already and move on.
What do we do then, with the broken?
Love. Accept. Listen. And hold tight.
Because one holy night, a lifetime ago when stars burned bright and all was still as the world held its breath, hope was born.
We know it. We have it. Hope lives on.