I’ve been cocooning over the month of December. For the first time ever, I really paid attention to the Advent season as opposed to the “Holiday Season”.
Don’t get me wrong. I still put up a tree and bought presents and cursed at crappy wrapping paper. You know. All the things that go along with “The Holidays.”
But I also intentionally waited for God. I paused. I took a breath. I made room for God, space for Him to arrive. I prepared a spiritual guest room of sorts, complete with hand towels and individually wrapped soaps.
I did in my head, at least. I love soap.
There were some hard things. If I haven’t already told you, I have anxiety. Anxiety is awful. It’s not rational and it creeps up on you when you’re not looking, and all of a sudden you realize you’re walking around with this heavy boulder in your stomach and you go, WTF? How did THAT get there? “The Holidays” are a perfect time for anxiety to do its creeping, and creep it did.
There were hurts, new and old. Relationships, wounds, things that need mending, others that need healing. At first I didn’t see the difference there, but then I realized: mending is sort of like bringing two things together, stitching back together the fabric that’s been torn.
Healing, on the other hand, is renewal, and more solitary. It’s a regeneration of self. So some relationships were mended — we came back together, and God was in the middle. And some relationships I healed from; I stopped picking at it and let the scar form, let the tissue regenerate, and I know I’ll come out stronger for it, and maybe a little more beautiful for my ugliness. And God is there in that, too.
And in the waiting for God, and in the middle of the healing, as the chaos swirled around me, and I was surrounded by presents, I realized that I have a really hard time receiving. Which is weird, because my love language is gifts.
And I do love presents. I mean, I really, really love presents. Big or small, doesn’t matter. I am always touched when someone brings me a little gift, and I’ll remember those gifts for years to come. I remember almost every gift my friend Kathy ever gave me, because her super power is knowing exactly the perfect gift to get someone, and I was always amazed at how good she was at it. The most romantic gift my husband ever gave me was a simple packet of sunflower seeds. No joke. I’ll remember those seeds until I die. And for the record, I love giving gifts as much as I love getting them.
And yet, for all my love of gifts given and gifts accepted, when it comes to God, I have a hard time receiving Him.
When I look around at all that I’ve been blessed with, I often think, “It’s not enough.” To be fair, I’m not talking about my home, or my family, or the things I have. I live in a beautiful home in a lovely town. I have fresh, nutritious food in my fridge, clean water to drink, more than enough clothes to wear. According to my husband, I have far too many shoes (utter nonsense, that).
I’m talking about the stuff of the spirit. That sense of of striving that this wilderness land brings. The constant wondering: Am I good enough?
I may love presents, but I have a ridiculously hard time asking for and receiving the gift of help. There is a stony place inside me that refuses help even when I desperately need it. It’s an independent streak that often serves me well, but also serves up a nice big helping of loneliness, isolation, and a pervasive feeling that I need to do it all myself. Even when I’m surrounded by friends and family, I feel alone and like it’s all up to me.
Which can get tricky when it comes to that whole salvation thing. Because, you know, grace and all.
Sometimes I wonder if God really knew what He was doing when He made it so the only thing we need to do is to accept the gift he made of himself. It’s a seemingly simple thing, and yet it’s the most impossible thing ever. To just receive him, without earning him. To get to enjoy God and all his goodness and glory, knowing full well there’s not a single thing we can do to pay him back even a penny’s worth of what He’s done for us.
I hate being in debt. I despise owing people. Talk about anxiety.
And yet the great irony here is that I have been given everything and I owe nothing for it. My debt has been paid. I am uneasy again with this as if I were a brand new believer, just coming to understand the depth of what Jesus did for me. But here I am, twenty-seven years into this journey, and I’m only now getting to that stony place inside that’s still holding out, refusing help, thinking she can do it all alone.
I’d like to say that my Advent time led to some wonderful, miraculous event or a brilliant insight, but it didn’t. Much like the birth of Jesus, all that waiting only produced an awareness of my own vulnerability, and my infantile faith. It’s days like today that I’m thankful Jesus said we only need mustard seed-sized faith, because for all my espousing and writing and praying and hoping, today is the kind of day where all I’ve got is this tiny little kernel to hold tight in my palm, a reminder of the bigger things to come, and a kingdom unseen.
In the meantime, I’m still waiting, still just trying to sit in the stillness and be. I’m trying to let God instead of forcing it all. I’m going to stop beating myself up for all my perceived lack, and I’m going to breathe in deep the air of this life I have today.
For the first time in my life, I’m going to let good enough actually be good enough.
I’ve decided I’m going to PAUSE regularly this year, and I’ve created a website where you can join me. PAUSELifestyle.com is all about returning to the garden to spend time with God. It’s a place where we make room for him in our lives. I hope you’ll join me there!