Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Pain Of Christmas

I'm going to say up front here that this isn't going to be my typical style of blog post. If you follow my blog even a little bit, you know what my style tends to be--the use of story and metaphor, both personal experience and otherwise, to draw out greater truth that I use in my daily life and hopefully you can as well.
This, however, may stray from that typical style. But regardless, I feel it is something that should be addressed.

Christmas is tomorrow and I realize that there are many of us who have gotten terrible news this holiday season that has left a bad taste in our mouths. Maybe it was a loss of a loved one or the news that you have cancer or the loss of a job you really needed. Whatever it may be, Christmas just isn't the same for you. But for many of us, the thing that ruined Christmas didn't even happen this year or last year, but many years ago. You lost someone that made Christmas Christmas, and with them gone, the holiday no longer carries the joy it used to.

I've lost people too. Believe me, I know what it's like. That being said, there's not much of anything that can lessen the pain right now except time. But I do believe that prayer, love, and support can help as well. So, even though I probably don't know you, I would like to pray for those of you grieving a loss this Christmas season. I pray that you find peace and comfort in the reminder of what this season is about. For it's not about lavish gifts, shopping trips, colored paper, and bright lights. It's not about food, time off from work, or tradition. Don't get me wrong, all these things are fine, and even uplifting when taken in the right heart, but they are not what Christmas is about. Christmas is about God giving up His standing as the most powerful being in the universe to take on our skin, our lives, and our suffering--to become completely helpless in the form of a newborn child. He gave up all He had to learn our language, experience our struggles, and feel our pain so that we could fully relate with Him not just as eternal souls but also as human beings, and so He could teach us how to live the way the Father made us to live.
But mostly He came so that he could defeat death once and for all. So that even though we may die here on earth, we will not remain that way, but join Him in the life we were always destined for.

I pray that you remember this as the pain of lost loved ones hits you with yet another wave of grief. I pray that though it may not make it hurt any less right now, that you will never forget that your Heavenly Father knows exactly what it feels like to lose someone dear to Him, for His Son died once too.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Out On a Limb

As someone who has struggled with anxiety, I know how terrifying it is to go out on a limb. To do something that could end horribly wrong.
Most people struggle on some level with this fear of the unknown, so I'm sure you can relate; but with anxiety, it is much worse. The fear is almost debilitating sometimes, and it makes the one struggling with it have trouble saying or doing things that would only make your average person somewhat nervous.
I have come to learn over the last couple years that anxiety roots itself in a lack of peace and manifests itself in the form of fear. Fear of doing something wrong, fear of sounding foolish or looking stupid, fear of disappointing those close to you, fear of being misunderstood. Most of all it manifests as a general fear of failure. Where most people are a little nervous that something may be awkward or not go quite as hoped, those of us with anxiety answer the question of "What could possibly go wrong?" with a loud and uncomfortable, "EVERYTHING!"
I don't know about others, since people with anxiety usually have anxiety about talking about their anxiety (ironic, I know), but my mind would always jump to one of the worst possible outcomes. Usually the second to the worst, then I'd think of something worse than that and I'd no longer want to confront whoever I needed to confront or have whatever conversation I knew I needed to have. So I made a habit of thinking of as many possible outcomes as I could, having them get progressively better. I'd end up with a list of six or more outcomes, lots of time wasted, and still the desire to hide under a rock and wish the situation would go away on its own, but usually somewhere in thinking of all those potential outcomes, I'd find one good one. Some glimmer of hope that got me to move and made me know I had to take the risk with the less than favorable outcomes.
But sometimes these "glimmers of hope" didn't always glimmer. They didn't shine, they didn't promise a chance at the perfect outcome, they sometimes weren't even the least negative option on the table. In fact, sometimes, what made me move away from my fear to take a leap of faith was the scariest option on the table. Now before you misunderstand me completely, allow me to explain.
You see, there was once this girl named Esther. Esther was nothing more than a simple Jewish peasant girl, but boy was she pretty. Now I don't mean generally pretty, but she was gorgeous enough that when the king needed a new wife and decided to round up all the single ladies in the area, she was the one he chose  out of the masses. Fast forward a bit. Esther was now queen, and as queen, she heard a terrifying bit of news. One of the king's highest in command had plans to kill the Jews, her people. She knew she must appeal to the king if she were to stop this disastrous thing from taking place, but she also knew the king's temper. He did not like to be disturbed. He wanted no one to come to him unless he called on them, even her, his wife. It was common knowledge that the reason he needed a new wife in the first place was because he had the last one executed for doing something that angered him. So, naturally, Esther was afraid to seek an audience with the king. She was afraid of what might happen to her, but after weighing the options, it was the darkest and scariest option that moved her to action.
If she didn't talk to the king, everyone she'd ever known and loved would die.
So she put her trust in God and went to speak to the king, not because she found some hope to cling to in her analyzing of the situation, but because she realized there would be no hope at all if she didn't move. She realized that what would be lost if she did nothing was far worse than what would be lost if she tried and failed.
Several months ago, I, like Esther, had a decision to make. Unlike Esther, my decision wasn't a life or death situation, but with how anxious about it I was, it might as well have been. My decision would, however, effect not only my life and future for at least a short time, but another's life and future as well. Like Esther, I found myself having to make a choice I didn't feel quite ready to make, though I don't know if I'd ever have been truly ready for it. Fear almost kept me at a standstill, but also like Esther I discovered something in my weighing of the situation. I realized that if I did nothing, I very well could lose any chance of keeping the other person in my life. And it wasn't until faced with the possibility of losing someone I cared deeply for did I realize how minor any of the other outcomes I had been stressing over really were.
In case you don't know the story, Esther went out on a limb, sought audience with the king, and prevailed! Not only were her people spared, but the man plotting to kill them was executed. I also went out on a limb, and so far, I'm not disappointed in my decision. In fact, I have learned so much more about myself, my God, and others in the last few months than I would have if I let this slip through my fingers.
So, you see, I understand how terrifying it can be to go out onto a limb. I know how debilitating all the "what ifs" popping up around you can be. But if I've learned one thing in this life, it's that the most beautiful flowers and the most delicious fruits often grow at the end of the most seemingly dangerous branches.
How will you ever experience the beauty and taste the joy if you don't take the risk and climb out into the unknown?