Six years ago Michael and I celebrated our first Christmas together as a married couple. Growing up in a big but very close family, it was weird to let go of the holiday traditions I’d grown up doing, and work to figure out what would become mine and Michael’s own traditions. Not that we didn’t borrow some from our families, but we also wanted to create our own newly-formed family traditions.
The first five Decembers of our married life were a hectic, crazy, rushing-around time in which I tried to get us to do everything possible related to Christmas. Overkill is an understatement. I went through a phase of creating an advent in which each day we opened a little envelope and did the Christmas-related thing for that day: making hot chocolate from scratch, going ice skating, watching a cheesy Christmas movie, etc. etc. In theory this sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? In reality, it’s not quite so lovely because life happens. I ended up getting so stressed out about the theoretically “fun” to do’s piling up and yet I convinced myself to do it year after year. It would be our “thing.”
This year I decided that it was time to admit defeat. If that was going to be our thing then Christmas would be stressful for the rest of our lives. And yet doing less always makes me feel like a failure (as any high-functioning anxious/depressed person can attest). I’m learning however that failure is not always a bad thing; sometimes it’s just what we need. As I’m writing this, I feel such a sense of calm. This year, we hung lights and decorated; we’ll probably bake cookies and watch the occasional holiday movie, but we don’t have to. There is no sense of urgency weighing over our heads anymore.
We have quieted ourselves and returned to truly focusing on what this season represents: God’s love for us, and his call for us to live in worship and service.
I Timothy 1: 15-17
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
If you have a story about mental illness—whether personal or concerning a loved one—please consider sharing your experience. Even if you aren’t at a place yet where you feel comfortable disclosing your name, the church body needs your voice. Let’s shine a light on the darkness, together.