It’s Christmas time and the world around me is happy, excited, anticipatory and elated at the coming of Christmas day, at the coming of celebrating this joyous occasion of the birth of Christ. But I just want to hide out in the safety of my bedroom. I am happy that Jesus came. For without him, I am nothing. There is so much to be grateful for. But there is a cloud. A cloud of sadness. A cloud of despair. A cloud of heartache. A cloud of mourning.
I wake each morning expecting that a fresh wind will blow, and my heart and spirit will be enlivened. Don’t get me wrong, there are mornings I wake up an forget, like awakening from a dream – like the last several weeks never happened. And then as the day moves on the reality of our new reality sets in.
I have been arguing with myself a lot. I am frustrated with my perceived weakness and inability to “move on”. I think to myself, “it has been 4 weeks, almost 5 weeks, since Zach passed. A month. So, why? Why am I still numb? Why am I still hurting so much? Why does my heart still ache?”
My patience with my own grieving process is wearing thin.
How long will my heart hurt? This heart of mine feels smashed, afraid to feel, but only able to feel. If I am honest, I tell myself, “everyone around me would be better off if I just sit alone in my room.” There is safety there all alone. There is safety in knowing I can just be me, my hurting heart exposed.
My fear wells up and tells me, “My lack of Christmas spirit, my grief and my hurting heart will taint the mood of the room and no one wants that. Christmas will be better if I spend it alone.”
I can’t expect others to understand my hurt. Or even to relate to my grief. But I want them to. I want to be understood. I suppose that is the heart of all our human yearning, is to be known and to be understood. All of this feels too hard to handle.
I recognize it is not just the “why” behind my continuing grief that bothers me, but the how and what of grief. How do I do Christmas? How do we as a family do Christmas now? How do we remember yet settle into our newfound reality?
What if I don’t want to do Christmas? What if doing Christmas just HURTS? What if I just want to be alone?
I do not have answers to any of these questions.
But I do have Jesus.
I have come to realize whether I spend Christmas day sitting in the bedroom all alone or surrounded by the traditions of family, whatever I choose, I have Jesus. And if I have Jesus, I am not alone.
The safety of past family traditions no longer exists. But my safety, the safety for my heart is found in Jesus. He is with me no matter the choice I make. And he can give me the strength and the courage to step out of my room and face the new reality of old traditions.
The prophet Isaiah tells us that Jesus was sent to “heal the brokenhearted”.
Jesus came so that my broken heart could be healed. Heal my broken heart Lord Jesus. Heal it and let the scars be the proof of your work on my heart. Heal my broken heart Lord, I pray. Heal the hearts of those who are reading this that are mourning and aching this Christmas.
Isaiah goes on to tell us in Isaiah 61:3 (NLT) “To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.”
He gives me a crown of beauty, joyous blessing and festive praise instead of my ashes, mourning and despair. This Christmas I am holding on tight to the words of the prophet Isaiah. As I ready my heart and mind to celebrate the birth of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I confront the truth of where I am.
I don’t want to do Christmas. I don’t want to do tradition. I don’t want to sing and giggle, laugh and play games. But I do want Jesus. This promise of joyous blessings, crown of beauty and festive praise will come. Even if they don’t come today, I know they will come as I sit and bask in his word and in his presence.
This Christmas, my gift to myself is recognizing it is okay that I don’t want to do Christmas, and it is okay if I am not understood. My gift to myself is more of Jesus. I choose to focus my heart and my mind on more of him. Without him I cling to the ashes, despair and mourning. With him, as time goes by, my heart will heal. I can trust him to be faithful to his promises. He will heal my broken heart.
I ask you, are you wrestling with the holiday like I am? Do you feel despair, morning and like you are covered in the ashes of heartache? If you do, I pray for you that you will cling to these same promises from Isaiah. Cling to the promise of a healed heart. Cling to the promise that your ashes will be remade into a crown of beauty. Cling to the hope of festive praises pouring us of your soul. Cling to the promise that your mourning will turn to a joyous blessing.
Christmas blessings and prayers for you to encounter more of Jesus this Christmas, the one who holds together all the pieces of your broken heart – and who will use the scars that remain for good.