Recently I had to put myself in a vulnerable position with a person I know who doesn’t like me. I still had to expose myself to the vulnerability. There was a much bigger picture involved. The bigger picture was well worth it. It was hard. I got battered. I survived. Not unscathed, but I survived.
Before this opportunity, I asked my closest friends to pray for me. I knew I would be too emotional to pray. That turned out to be true. I knew they would pray for me. They also were available to me throughout by that oddly wonderful gift of text.
When this opportunity was over, I was exhausted. In that exhaustion I noticed another strong emotion welling up inside of me. It was gratitude. Gratitude for the prayers. Gratitude for my friends. Gratitude for the simple texts. (Note: NOT gratitude that the opportunity was over.) I had just finished a series on what gratitude does for us and how it is so closely associated to vulnerability and now I was living it. This is true stuff!
That gratitude led to joy. Here I was emotionally exhausted and had a new “scar,” but I was joyful.
Christmas is a season where you also will have to place yourself in such “opportunities.” It goes with the holiday season, doesn’t it?
- It’s the first Christmas since your divorce. You will be starting new traditions with your kids and just the thought of that overwhelms you.
- You have that sister who will probably say something snarky to you within the first 30 minutes of your arrival.
- You have to go to the office Christmas party alone and have to navigate the politics of your office and still be alone.
- You will have to wrestle with the decision of whether or not you should call your dad on Christmas Eve realizing full well it will probably ruin you emotionally for the rest of your family.
- You will be giving gifts that are not extravagant because you are done using “shopping therapy” to numb and you are broke. You have decided to give more thoughtful gifts but not everyone in your circle has come to the realization you have.
- You will cook and clean and serve a lot of people you love over the holidays. Some will be grateful. You already know the ones who will not be.
- A friend you love dearly will become engaged while you will still be single. You are happy for her yet not.
- This will be the first Christmas without your mom. You want to continue on with the same traditions but you also want to not do those traditions because it will stir up the loss.
- Your son-in-law will certainly say something inappropriate over the Christmas dinner which will make you dread every part of the Christmas dinner—even the preparation.
As you bravely enter into each of these “opportunities,” notice how gratitude will well up inside of you. Unexpectedly at times. Ask your close friends to pray for you. Notice how gratitude will well up inside of you for them—again. You will notice how your Christmas spirit will be made up of gratitude.
This is so true. And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7. You live. You make brave vulnerable decisions. And the thankfulness overflows.
It is amazing how our brains work this way. Our brains which were created by God.
Ponder these thoughts written from a Benedictine monk as you live every day in this Christmas season:
Ordinary happiness depends on happenstance.
Joy is that extraordinary happiness that is independent of what happens to us.
Good luck can make us happy, but it cannot give us lasting joy.
The root of joy is gratefulness. We tend to misunderstand the link between joy and gratefulness. We notice that joyful people are grateful and suppose that they are grateful for their joy. But the reverse is true: their joy springs from gratefulness. If one has all the good luck in the world, but takes it for granted, it will not give one joy. Yet even bad luck will give joy to those who manage to be grateful for it.
We hold the key to lasting happiness in our own hands. For it is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.“
—Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer by Brother David Steindl-Rast
Joy to the world. Joy to your world. No matter what you are facing this Christmas season.