Holiday Picture Versus Reality
By: Hannah Dearth
I have this image in my head when I get really excited about something, an image that I just can’t shake. You know what I am talking about...when you hear about an upcoming event that you are excited for and you imagine how it will go. Whether it’s a vacation we are planning for, a birthday party for my children, a dinner with friends, or the biggest of all.... the holidays. We construct an idea about how said time will play out for us, and for our loved ones. We think about how we will cherish our time and be intentional and take those photos, have the perfect meal, and perfect gifts etc.
However, life is life, and people are people, and things just usually do not go exactly as planned. The photos we compare ourselves to on social media are usually the best parts (with added filter and edits), or at least even when we use some vulnerability they are just the surface of the worst parts that we try to share after some time has passed and we can reflect or make light of the experience. Either way, that is just not exactly the whole story for someone else either. So, when something goes awry, it feels to me (and maybe you if you are a fellow deep feeling human) so so personal. It feels as if they must not like me. It feels as if my house isn’t clean enough or big enough. It feels like it’s me. It feels like I can’t adapt, and thus, Christmas is not so great anymore.
In time, I am learning that this comes from a twisted mix of anxiety and pride. A feeling to please those I care about and to think everyone is really focused on me at the same time. I know this is not everyone’s personality, but I do think we hold our holidays at this standard regardless of personality type. We just create an idea that cannot be achieved. We put so much expectation on ourselves and others. One thing I have really appreciated this year, is seeing a mix or what feels like more honesty this year about that pressure to please, about mending hard relationships and deeply loving, and to overcome the focus to have holidays be a certain way. I have saw it written about from fellow bloggers and even listened and studied about it in our recent sermon series at my church. Maybe, you’ve seen it too, a cute quote talking about focusing on the real gifts that matter and such. I’ve even written some of my own pieces about this.
In fact...I’ve prayed about it. Talked about it with friends. Read about it in my bible. It’s easy to commit to when the plan is on track. When it’s encouragement for someone else, or something from the past for you. Love people when it’s hard. Don’t focus on a plan or perfection. Don’t put so much pressure on everything and everyone. However, when it comes down to living it, my heart struggles. Like really struggles. How can this be? I believe it so strongly!
I know Jesus. I believe in him. I believe in the true beautiful and wonderful reason we celebrate, but the picture in my head...it controls my feelings. It takes over when it doesn’t match up to reality. When a family member is hurtful. When budgets are stretched. When plans don’t work out. It’s hard for my broken soul to say, remember the reason, take a deep breath and really deeply feel this and love, be at peace, and be focused on Him. I say this because this cycle of guilt and shame can drive us. It can take one situation and feeling and move from what we know about Him regardless of what is happening around us....to what is now our reality based on our feelings and ideas of how we thought it would be.... now we are left hopeless, upset, disappointed. This is all the more an example of why we need Him and why we really are grateful for Christmas at its core.
Don’t let Satan take that from you this next few days. Let all of the encouragement you’ve received or told yourself fill you up so full that it is overflowing and not just fleeting words that provided a brief pick me up. Didn’t make it on time? Who cares. Ended up spending time with some hard to love family members? Love them harder. Forgot something? The day will go on. Grieving, depressed, anxious? Come as you are, it is OK.
Because really, REALLY read and feel this, friends.... Jesus is always on time, always loving, and never ever forgets us (or anything we need for that matter). He takes us and our mess and wraps it all up in him. This week we remember how far he really went to show us that and celebrate how He is still working for us and in us today. Even when it’s his birthday and his party, he’s whispering “you are enough” and “I am here”. He’s giving us the gift...him. That messy reality is where he’s at and where we see and feel him most...not that picture in your head anyway. Pick reality and all that comes with it...and save that impossibly squeaky clean and tied up image for your favorite Christmas specials.