Trying to live love well through the power of the Everlasting.
Steven Pressfield writes in The War of Art that a “hack” is someone who second-guesses what the people want to hear. He or she doesn’t write or speak authentically, but rather gives out what they think will “play well in the eyes of others.”
I really don’t wanna be a hack. I’ve been one before, and I’m done with those days (God willing) forever. I’ve done some thinking over the past few days about what I should write about on this blog, and what I should not write about. I think I played dangerously close to the edge of hack-dom, and I vowed to myself to continue in my original plan: to blog authentically about the things that were running through my mind.
I do think it’s true that there’s a time and a place for certain thoughts or ideas. But I also think that that concept can be a fine line between authenticity and playing games. I don’t do fine lines well, so I think I’ll steer wide of it and fall more on the authenticity side, even if it means talking where perhaps I ought to have kept my mouth shut.
I think doing so has benefits. One is that what I’m writing about and thinking through can help someone else who happens across this blog. Not that it must, but that it could. Another benefit is that it helps keep me transparent. I don’t do that well naturally, and so every little bit helps there.
In the name of transparency and authenticity, then, I’m going to write my way through how I’m feeling about Christmas just now. Fair warning: I’m not starting this with an idea in mind, so the words will flow and change as I write and think things out. Another fair warning: it could just be that I’ve got a bad attitude about it this year, or that I’m being immature, or any number of things that are, indeed, my problem. I’m not ruling that out. But if that’s the case, I just can’t see it yet from today’s perspective. Who knows? Looking back on this next Christmas Eve, I may be chuckling and shaking my head at myself. But for this Christmas Eve…
I’m thoroughly miserable.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been overwhelmed by messages and displays of romance, miracles, the importance of family, forgiveness, and acceptance. It’s Christmas. That stuff’s everywhere; you can’t escape it. And in years past I’ve not had any problems with it. But this year, I’m not digging it. For starters, I’m noticing more and more that Christians in general throw quite a bit of weight behind Christmas, but in ways that I’m not convinced actually help the Kingdom of which Christ is the King. Lights, wreaths, and presents with astronomical price tags? Perhaps there’s nothing wrong with them, necessarily, but for a holiday that we insist – sometimes visciously – is about celebrating Jesus and what his coming meant? Perhaps we might come up with a better way to celebrate that than the world’s richest people giving the world’s wealthiest gifts to one another? Maybe?
Then I turn around and everywhere I look, I’m seeing heterosexual couples. My brother and his wife, my sister and her husband, even my sister and her boyfriend. Each couple is wholly and heartily included in the season’s events. My siblings and their spouses live away, and so they’ve opened their gifts over Skype with my family, laughing and happy and included. My sister’s boyfriend has gifts here in our home, wrapped with his name on them, and has been invited over for our family’s annual Christmas Eve celebration. There is nothing wrong with that at all, but it breaks my heart because I know that someday, I hope to have a man in my life with whom I will be partnered with, covenanted together before the Living God. I hope for something like this, and at the same time my heart breaks knowing that we won’t be extended the same invitations my siblings enjoy. Well, I will be, but only me. He won’t have presents, he won’t be invited, and there’ll be no Skype time for him. And that just won’t fly with me.
And it really sucks, watching my siblings and their families interact with the rest of the family. It’s awful to know that, should next Christmas find me in a relationship, it will be a point of contention, stress, and grief to the family rather than a source of joy and love. A line from the Owl City song “Saltwater Room” sticks out in my head when I think about this:
If this is what I call home, why does it feel so alone?
These things, and a few other thoughts that I just can’t seem to get down in words just now, all factor together to form a very gloomy holiday season for me. I mean, yes, I’m going to suck it up and engage with my family this year, but I still can’t help but feel that something’s terribly wrong with this picture. Something is fundamentally anti-Christ in this season that celebrates Christ, even when we’re celebrating it in a distinctively Christian community.
Christ was born in a manger. Christ walked through life communing with the outcast and the downtrodden. The people that slip through the cracks. Well, it’s 2011, it’s Christmas, and I’m slipping through the cracks. And I’m not the only one, am I? So in a season celebrating Christ and his coming to humanity (and all that that means for us) shouldn’t somebody notice the people who are falling through the cracks? But that seems to be the last thing on people’s mind during these weeks. Sure, it’s in all the Hallmark movies, but in the actual, day-to-day lives of real human beings?
Many of us are broke from spending too much money, stressed from bending over backwards to put on a good show and please everyone, and broken-hearted from all the pain and sorrow we’re repressing in order to be happy and joyful. Like baby Jesus wants.
I think that many of us are being bullied into Christmas. I know I feel like I am. Guilt-tripped, manipulated, and bullied into being a good little Christian and doing the Christmas thing as usual. And if your heart isn’t it? Well, smile wider, suck it up, and deal until it’s over.
I don’t want to celebrate Christ like that. And I know that this doesn’t aptly portray the holidays for many, many people. But I know that it does aptly portray the holidays for many others. And I’m one of the others.
I want to find a way to embrace Christmas as the season that we remember that God is with us, and just what that means for those of us that are weary and broken. Not being bullied into a mainstream idealogy, but poured into by the love of the God that came down to us. Healed and infused with life, not sucked dry and battered about. Living the gospel message, not living a story that hauntingly reminds us of the Israel judged for lavish living at the expense of the poor.
So my hope and prayer is that by next Christmas, my spirit will be renewed and refreshed. That I’ll have figured out a better way to celebrate Christmas; a way that more accurately touches on the Christ that the holiday is about, and the message he brought about a Kingdom of Heaven and loving God and others well. A Christmas celebration that doesn’t leave people on the fringe, feeling like strangers in their own families and communities, but that unites us, deeper and better than is being done currently.
Because c’mon, let’s give credit where it’s due: there’s a lot of people out there doing Christmas well. Thank you.
So maybe next year, we’ll celebrate Christmas well, better and deeper.
And honestly? I think the only way to do that is to be the change I’d like to see.
So I guess that means sucking it up and reaching out to others who are slipping between the cracks this holiday season, with a purpose and a passion. Perhaps I’m here, in this situation and this frame of mind, for such a time as this.
Huh. Funny that. I arrived somewhere I didn’t see coming.
I think I like that.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
I think I’ve got work to do.