This year more than ever, I am thankful for tradition. Not so much the ritual of it, but what it means. It’s a coming up for air, a gasp of relief.
During the past year, I overcame a debilitating perspective of God and the world, life inside a tormented mind, a world I had never experienced. My actual life was perfect, as much as we would all dare to wish, but I was haunted by “what if”, a gruesome fantasy land.
It is Christmas time again, and I remember that last year, near Christmas time, I was not doing well. My hair turned dirty and gray from stress, and one of my eyes twitched frantically beneath all the tension. I worried my falling-apart soul was manifesting on my outsides.
When I look back at this photo from just one year ago, the day my family ventured out for a Christmas tree, I can see and feel all the wear on my face and in my soul. Life was a weary thing in those days, but I am in a different place now.
This year, when we went out to get our tree, I insisted we take another picture in the same spot because I wanted to see it. I wanted to look in my eyes and know the healing happened, know that I am not the same. And I saw it. I saw the newness, the strength, the peace and confidence that comes with a healthy soul.
Tradition is the gift that reminds me I am not the same: I am growing, becoming. I could not have imagined who I am now, but that wasn’t necessary to become her. And when the earth goes around, and I find myself back here in this season, I can feel the change, the space between who I was and who I am. And it is good.
Tradition is proof there is hope for humanity, that we are not a lost race. Proof that God has not given up on us. Because here we are again, despite all the pain in the world that frightens or distracts us. We are listening to Bing Crosby, sipping wine, telling our children the story of the first gift ever given, and how we are now Father God’s children because of this gift, Jesus. And how we give gifts because we so long to be like our Dad, the papa with the belly laugh like Mr. Fezziwig from A Christmas Carol. And this year, I can tell my sons with certainty that our God is a God of extravagant generosity and he loves so big, so much, and it is a special honor we have to follow behind and try to be like him.
I can say all these things this Christmas because my soul has room to believe them. I have been planting truth in my soul, nourishing myself with quiet and learning, bravely, to simply let myself be loved.
If I could give us all one gift this Christmas season, it is that we would let ourselves be loved, that we would take the boxing gloves off, that we would stop keeping score of our goods and our bads – God isn’t doing it, so why should we? I would give us the gift of gentle vulnerability, the kind that isn’t too strong to let love in, to receive the only gift your heart really wants, really needs, the thing that happens to be the the thing God longs to give you.
Let traditions, another year around the sun, heal and nurture your soul this year. May you see all the lavish grace that has been poured out on you in the past year, even when everything felt broken down and busted up. May you live in this circle of the earth, this season of warmth and quiet, and may it heal you up in places you didn’t even know you needed it.
Love to you.