When Christmas isn't merry: advice for the hurting.
Anyone who knows the Christmas Story knows that Mary and Joseph were told that there was no room at the inn, and sent around back to the stable.
Part of me wonders if poor Mary was thinking, "I don't care WHERE we go, Joseph! Get me off this stupid donkey!!!"
Any woman who's ever been in/seen/heard about labour/childbirth/a toddler fit in the grocery store, will nod her head, and anyone who's ever ridden a donkey is also nodding his or her head. Heck, any woman who's even had cramps is cringing.
So, Mary and Joseph found themselves in a barn and poor Joseph had to assist her because they were far from home. Can you imagine how much she'd have missed her mother, or her sisters or her aunts and grandmothers? "Joseph, remember the breathing exercises?"
I stopped getting my dear, sweet husband to help me breathe because he'd lose count and just keep switching things up, and I'd end up seeing stars.
Okay, so, moving on...they have the baby, the Saviour of the world, and go with the name the ANGELS told them to name him. No, I can't say as any angels told us what to name our kids, but I'm pretty sure if I claimed that? A whole lot of people would be all "Have you seen a doctor, honey? Maybe lay off the Earl Grey, or the wine. Let's go with wine."
Fast forward the story to this past week. Now, as a believer in Jesus, I am shaped by His teachings of love, grace, forgiveness and mercy.
Here's where things get tricky. There's a whole herd of elephants in the great family room of The Holidays, and those elephants go by the names Abuse, Manipulation, Turmoil, and the biggest one? That's the rogue elephant known as Toxicity.
People, the holidays can be filled with love and joy, laughter and fun, and the most grievous pain of the entire year.
Some of us mourn the dead and gone. Some of us mourn the living and exiled.
Those in exile are there because of all kinds of reasons, and each of those reasons weighs heavy on families, but I'm going to address a certain kind of exile- the ones who choose to leave.
A friend of mine, no, I won't be handing out the name, received a Christmas card this week. Not a big shock, considering the gazillions of Christmas cards traversing the globe at the moment.
I'll set the stage...this friend has not had any contact from a certain sibling in ten years, or seen this sibling in twenty years.
So, for 3,650 days, plus or minus a few, this friend was not worth that sibling's time, effort, or consideration.
So, the very first contact, in a decade, that this friend has had from that sibling was this, in a Christmas card...
Dear (people I won't name)
I hope that 2018 was very good to you both and that 2019 holds all that you wish for-
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Merry Christmas and Joyeux Noel.
We are all doing great and had a really good 2018 and look forward to a great year ahead.
I wish you and (spouse) a wonderful 2019.
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year.
Now, there are several schools of interpretation on this. Everything from the "nice gesture, at least they're trying" on one hand, to the "they had ten years to think of what to say and this is the best they could come up with? Burn the card." on the other hand.
Somewhere in there is the "I don't have the patience to see my family hurt again, I don't have the heart to sift through these jagged shards at Christmas, and I don't know why they picked the time of year when emotions are running high anyway, and was there a single apology or mention of why they treat us all like garbage?" school of thought.
Also known as The Dancing Elephants of Doom.
People, the holidays can definitely be a time of healing and forgiveness. Definitely.
Although, a lot of times, for our own good, we'll get to the point at which need to forgive someone even if they haven't apologized.
At times, there can be confusion as to what exactly that forgiveness means.
What is does mean is we let go of the negative baggage, and its hold over us.
What it does NOT mean is a clean slate for that person to start the rollercoaster all over, carte blanche to stick a few more daggers into the hearts of the wounded.
Yes, it is possible to forgive toxic, abusive, manipulative, dangerous people.
Yes, the ones who've been scarred and broken may forgive the one who did the damage, they may even love them. But just because one is at peace with the past does not mean the toxins have floated away on a breeze of happiness and sunshine.
Jesus called His followers to forgive, to turn the other cheek. He also flipped tables in the temple when the strong turned the house of the Lord into a market and abused and manipulated the weak. After He was done wreaking havoc, He immediately healed the hurting.
He shook up those who did the breaking, and then He cleaned up the broken pieces.
An ancient equivalent to trashing the snake-oil salesmen and helping the poor who sought pure medicine.
So, what about the person who wrote and sent that card?
My friend, a gracious and intelligent person, wishes this person well, but they also wish that unless this person gets their heart and brains together and does some honest, constructive apologizing, they'd find another inn to stir up. No matter how well-intentioned, a sugary card will not fix the mess. It won't even come close. In fact, things were going fine for my friend until that card showed up.
Now? Let's just say we've talked through a tonne of hurts.
So yeah, Christmas is a tender, fragile time for so many people.
If you're in a good place in your world, be extra kind to those you see as you count down the days until the 25th. No matter where you go, you will be encountering people who are carrying some deep and painful scars.
If you meet someone whose burden is as heavy as my friend's? Don't try and play therapist, just take your cues from the one who is bravely carrying on through the hurting.
If you're the one who needs to do the apologizing, plan it out, or even write it out, but be sincere and do the hard work of being humble enough to start the healing process. Don't be selfish and just show up on Christmas Day hoping for a Hallmark ending. You need to earn the right to invade. And you'd better be ready for the fireworks. The people you hurt will have a few things to say. If you're smart, you won't justify, or interrupt.
Until you're the same person at home with your family that you appear to be with your friends, your key won't work.
If you're the one who's been hurt like my friend was, and you get a card like my friend did? You don't have to let yourself feel guilty for not wanting to respond.You don't have to respond.
You can decide how to approach this on your own time, on whatever day you choose. You don't have to like the words, or even believe them.
This isn't a game, you don't have to throw the ball back. You can walk away and leave it on the ground.
Do what is best for you and your family. Sometimes what is best is nothing at all.
Have a lovely Christmas.
Be wise, have fun, and be kind.
Leave the fireworks to the angels from the realms of glory.