This week I am excited to share a parable written by my son. It’s an amazing picture of what I’ve observed personally in my own life and as a counselor who sits with many people on a troubled journey.
There was once a person, who sat, troubled. For this person had been on a journey, and had come to a cliff blocking their path. They saw no bridge to cross it, and saw no way around it for the air was too dark. So they sat, wondering if their journey had come to an end. After what seemed like a very long time of sitting and staring, they began to question if they need only walk off the cliff. And up they stood, with rash, to walk off.
But then they saw something approaching them in the darkness. A spirit had come to them. The spirit seemed to have a familiar face and they greeted the spirit as one does. Then the spirit turned them around. And all of a sudden, they felt comforted by a presence that had always been with them but they had never noticed. They saw that the path behind them was light, and they saw many faces all smiling towards them. Many faces of which they knew as old friends, and many faces of which were unknown to them.
Guided by the comforting presence they walked to the smiling people and told them their problem. Then all of the smiling people walked to the edge and began to form a bridge. All together the smiling people formed a bridge and for the first time the person, once troubled, could see the other side of the cliff. So they walked across the bridge with the comforting presence. While walking across, they almost fell many times, but whenever they did the comforting presence carried them back to balance.
Eventually, they crossed the bridge and stood at the other side that once did not exist to them. The smiling people stood together with them and they began to walk the new path they saw. And through the time walking this path they crossed many cliffs where the smiling people made bridges for them, and they helped make many bridges for others of the smiling people who then frowned. But they could always tell that the comforting presence was with them, either guiding or carrying.
I’ve written several Christmas blog posts over the last few years. All have been geared to help us (women in particular) eliminate stress this time of year by letting go of the idea of a perfect Christmas. To read them click here (The Not Perfect Christmas and Hope for the Holidays)
This year, I’ve been thinking more about what I really want for Christmas:
These words jump off the page and fill us with longing. No matter how life is going for you right now, whether mostly good or horribly difficult….my guess is you still long for peace, rest, and joy. You get glimpses of each throughout each day yet we all go to bed weary longing for more.
Our experience of peace is directly connected to our ability to surrender and abide in the true vine, Jesus. John 14-17 is full of a mixture of Jesus talking to his disciples about peace but also worldly sorrow and struggle. Its interesting because struggle and peace don’t coexist in our minds very well. I wonder if we believe on some level that peace means the absence of trouble? Yet scripture doesn’t teach that at all. Here Jesus tells his disciples that they will definitely have trouble in the world. He had trouble and his biggest trouble was about to happen when he is arrested in John 18. To expect a trouble free life when our Savior’s life was full of trouble doesn’t make a lot of sense. Yet we do….deep down we long for things to go well. Maybe that’s the part of us that knows the world is broken and longs for real peace. Our mistake is seeking it apart from Jesus or seeing the pain in this world as something God has inflicted upon us..
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
Every other place and thing we expect to bring us true rest, peace, and joy doesn’t last. They are only a taste of what’s available when we abide in Jesus and a taste of what is to come when all things are made new.
To experience true rest, peace, and joy we must abide, remain, or dwell with Jesus.
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. ” John 15:4-5
This idea is a continual connectedness. Clearly Jesus is talking to believers in this passage because he says they “are already clean” (John 15:3). So it seems that we can be saved and chose not to abide in Christ. I think stress, busyness, pain, difficulty, struggle, and selfishness are all things that distract us and contribute to a lack of abiding. Abiding is a moment by moment choice to surrender to God and not a one time thing. Salvation (justification) is a one time thing.
To experience true rest, peace, and joy we must let God’s love flow in and out of us.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.You are my friends if you do what I command.I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.This is my command: Love each other.John 15:9-17
There are two parts to this: accepting how much God loves you and loving others. For many, accepting how much God loves you is really hard. We all know how broken we are and how much we’ve done that we know violates God’s law. It’s the story written throughout scripture, starting in Genesis. God loving a people that can’t obey his law. There was no one that earned God’s love. In fact, God loved us all so much that he sent Jesus to fulfill the law on our behalf. It’s a pure, sacrificial love of a unlovable, unfaithful people. That’s the love God has for you, not based on what you’ve done or not done or what’s been done to you…but a love based on the gracious, mercy of the Giver. As I reflect on how amazing God’s love is, I’m in awe. It’s this love that we pour out to others…not because they’ve earned it but because we’ve been on the receiving end of undeserved love….now we get to give it…not in our own strength but through the power of the Holy Spirit.
To experience real rest, peace, and joy we must expect hard times and find our anchor in Jesus.
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” John 15:18
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
I’m not sure why we are always so surprised by stress and struggle but we are. Somewhere we have an expectation that life should be easier than it is. Jesus never promised an easy life…but he did promise to provide us with peace in our difficult life (Romans 8) and hope for the future (Revelation 21). As we walk into a very busy, stressful season of the year, one that is meant to point us to the amazing time where God gave us the gracious gift of Jesus, let us remember rest, peace, joy, and hope. Rest that you don’t have to do anything to earn your salvation…Jesus did it all for you. Celebrate the peace you have with God because of Jesus and pursue the internal peace that comes from abiding in Jesus. Allow joy to overflow because of the love God pours into you. And, claim hope because one day all things will be made new and we won’t have to any longer choose to abide with God because he will physically be with us.
“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.” Revelation 21:1-7
This Christmas, I want to give the greatest Giver of all my moment by moment surrender. Let’s not just give lip service to the idea of surrender but think about what it means to really lay down all to Jesus. The amazing thing is that as I give this gift to Jesus, he gives me what I really need….peace, rest, joy, and hope. Is it easy? No. Will I fail? Yes. Beloved, God knows our weaknesses. He doesn’t expect perfection. He is our perfection. He just wants a surrendered relationship with his beloved.
I love Christmas. I love the cooler weather, the warm clothes, warm coffee, and snuggling under blankets with family. I love buying gifts, wrapping gifts, giving gifts, attending Christmas Eve service, being with family, and watching Christmas movies. Yet, let’s be honest ladies…Christmas for moms (or women in general) can be STRESSFUL. As if we don’t already have enough to do, let’s pile on a whole bunch of shopping, baking, cooking, decorating, dinner parties, and traveling. Ummmm…. if I added any of that to a regular week then I am overwhelmed but add it all in one month?? Come on now…where did my sanity go?
Now, I looove LOOKING at beautiful decorations but honestly, I don’t want to spend that much on decor. I am not even quite sure what to buy when I do have decorating money. So, we continue to use the same decorations year after year. My boys don’t seem to mind and I think it looks decent when I am done. But, I always feel that my decorations are a little, let’s say, less than magazine perfect. I never quite feel like my house has “grown up” decorations (and I’m almost 40). It used to be (back before Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) that I would only feel bad when I went to someone else’s home that was beautifully decorated. Now, however, I can feel inadequate just by checking my social media feed. Not only that, there is so much more to feel bad about…my deficient baking skills, I’m not done with my shopping yet, I didn’t get the best deals during Black Friday, my presents won’t have ribbons or bows, my Christmas cards aren’t done, I have no regular daily Christmas activity planned for the kids, and no elf comes to visit in cleverly cute ways.
It is honestly comical how we put so much pressure on ourselves during this time of year. I mean what is the point? Who are we pleasing? What are we celebrating??? Comparison is evil! Perfection is unrealistic and unattainable. Life happens in the mess. Mistakes forge memories that bond us together in our humanity. When we share only our achievements and not our mistakes, we don’t connect. We miss each other. We feel alone.
Not only that, if we were perfect…we wouldn’t need Jesus. Isn’t that the whole point of this time of year anyway? Because of our imperfection and brokenness, Jesus was born to be the perfection we constantly strive for. In Jesus, I am completely perfect! So I am free to embrace my human imperfections (of which there are so many…ask my kids and husband). So this Christmas, I am going to enjoy each moment, the great ones and the bad ones. The great ones are a glimpse of eternity when all is made new and the bad ones are a reminder of my need for Jesus!
So celebrate the season and do what you want to do. No comparing! Your version of Christmas for your family is just right!
Let’s share our imperfections together this Christmas and have a Not Perfect Christmas. Let’s really connect and be real on social media. Let’s proclaim our imperfections loud so Jesus’ perfection is magnified!
Find me @counseling4hope #notperfect!
Here’s my first imperfect social media post:
We made an awesome Christmas budget spreadsheet that we password protected because my kids use this computer. Ummm…yep, we forgot the password. #notperfect #Christmas
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Permanent link to this article: https://counseling4hope.com/not-perfect-christmas/
Aimee Thompson, MA, LPC
Areas of Focus:
All aspects of womanhood (age 12 and up)
Identity and Self-Image
Family of Origin Wounds