It’s the day before Thanksgiving, and I’m in the dreaded holiday Vortex of Loneliness.
I’ve spent most of the day shopping alone, as usual. I’ve survived the dizziness that descends every time I visit Walmart, the entitled shoppers of Fresh Market, and the teenage Kroger cashier who’s so busy talking to his friend that he doesn’t acknowledge me. Every year it’s been pretty much the same story: I’m in this alone. As the mom of 3 young kids, I’m responsible for making holidays happen. It’s my privilege and my burden.
Most of the time, I feel the privilege of holiday planning. Cooking delicious meals, shopping for this year’s perfect tree, wrapping their little presents… I’m blessed!
Sometimes, though, in all honesty, the holidays really, really, really suck. I mean in the worst way. As in “I’m a Christian, and I love Jesus, but I want to stick up my middle finger at the whole stupid world and say every cuss word in the dictionary” suck.
When I think about my stupid adopted dad (the fake Methodist minister who molested my sisters and is now on his 3rd marriage), I get mad.
When I think of my terribly naïve and unavailable adopted mom…
When I think of my adopted siblings who didn’t reciprocate when I tried getting to know them…
When I think of my former “pastor” who destroyed my church (the closest thing I had to a family in my life)…
When I think of the insular church, the smug cluelessness of most people with big families, the corporate materialism saturating the holidays, and this sin-soaked world…
I’m so, so mad.
Today, for the first time, I even aimed my anger at the 2 people who are my birth parents. I don’t know them, but if they happen to read this blog, birth parents, please let me extend a hearty “Thanks for abandoning me and leaving a massive never-quite-healed scar on my heart.” Yay.
I know that, as I Christian, I’m not *supposed* to say this stuff. I’m not *supposed* to get raging, selfishly mad, or want to stuck up my middle finger, or cuss. I’m supposed to smile, and forgive, and love.
I know that, in the span of human suffering, my problems aren’t unique. This time of year, I get that lots of Kroger shoppers probably feel the same way I do. Even worse, my problems aren’t even high on the totem pole of human misery. After all, right now, masses of Syrians are fleeing terror or living in conditions I can’t even dream of. I feel lame and petty for even feeling mad about my first world problems when I think of the world’s pain and sorrow. What right do I have to complain? I shop at FRESH MARKET, for crying out loud.
These are things I know. I know. I know. I know. But knowing doesn’t help much when I’m wandering through Walmart’s lonely aisles and desperately wanting someone to care. It doesn’t help when I’m reading Facebook posts about family visits, and I’m cooking alone in my quiet kitchen.
Really, the only thing that helps are my three little munchkins who need me to rise above my own pain and give them something I don’t particularly feel like giving. They want a happy Thanksgiving, and they want a Merry Christmas, and by God’s grace, I’m going to give it to them. When I literally feel like melting into a puddle of self-pity and despair (I know it sounds pathetically dramatic, but it’s true), those kids are God’s power made real to me. Through them, God shines His light and teaches me what real love means.
If there’s one thing I know about human nature (and especially Americans), it’s that we want to be strong without doing the heavy lifting to get there. We envision ourselves with the spiritual brawn of Mother Teresa, but we won’t lay down our lives for lepers. We’re sure that we would save Jews and defy Hitler, but we can’t defy our own television sets.
In this season, when all I really want to do is hibernate in a fetal position until January 2nd rolls around, God makes sure I do the heavy lifting.
He cheers me on through my kids. He’s my coach shouting out, “Come on, Sharene! You can do it! Life isn’t about you! Give them a Christmas to remember! Smile when you want to weep! Dance when you want to mourn! Give when you want to get! Come on, Sharene! You can do it! You can do it!” It’s not Olympic-level spirituality like that of Mother Teresa, but for me, it’s pretty darn hard.
Right now, I can hear Him in my heart, and it is the best gift I have ever received. It is hope and a promise. It is a future. It is a reward. It is the reality of Jesus who is real and is living and is making a difference in the here and now.
I won’t do the religiously-correct Christian thing and pretend that life is easy, or that I don’t struggle, but without Jesus, I would be one of those terrible and numerous statistics in the painful cesspool of life on this messed-up earth. Again, I know it sounds pathetic, but it’s true.
So, this holiday season, I’m really and truly thankful. Even in the midst of my most intense bouts of loneliness. Even if I’m partly jealous and longing and pathetically craving what I can’t have. I don’t have a big, happy family or a comfortable, welcoming homeplace to visit, or a “normal” family tree. But, I have a great husband, and 3 sweet, crazy kids, and friends. And most of all, I have Jesus who makes the other stuff more than enough.
So, in the end, I know this: God is good to me. God is good.
Amen. Amen. Amen.
A Small Note:
In a confessional article like this, I feel like I need to say a few things:
- First of all, this article’s purpose is not to incite my readers’ pity. No pity, got that?
- Empathy, however, is good… as long as it leads to action. Show some love to someone—especially to someone who really needs it. Be Jesus.
- Please… advice, as well-meaning as it may be, is unnecessary. Prayers, though, are welcome. In fact, pray for everyone struggling this holiday season.
- No, I did not actually spew a stream of cuss words or flip off the world. I was really tempted to, though.
- Thanks for reading. May God bless you and your family with a sweet, joyous season of celebration!