I grumbled not so under my breath as I scraped wilted bits of lettuce and bread crumbs from my freshly cleaned countertops. In theory, it’s the season of goodwill and giving. In my heart, not so much. Such is the life of a mother come holiday season. Even during a pandemic, the calendar somehow swells with busy-ness. New tasks materialize as soon as old ones are ticked off. And people still require dinner, even though it’s December.
By nature, I am a helper. I am empathetic and relational, but I don’t need to be needed, which may sound like a contradiction. I’m simply saying that if there are needs I can meet, I will. If someone in my midst is anxious, if there’s a problem I can fix or relief I can offer, I will gladly and instinctively do it. I will gladly and instinctively do it until I suddenly hit a wall from all the glad and instinctive doing of things.
In the last couple of weeks, I have repeatedly run up against the wall.
If you run a home, if you have a job, if you have a partner and / or children, each day can feel like being CEO of a Needs Factory. The holidays mean overtime but with no extra pay. Which means that on a December Tuesday, you may forget to pick up your youngest from school (hypothetically speaking, of course), a task you do every day without fail. You may forget the child because your brain is at capacity from All The Needs And Details Of Your Life And Everyone Else’s.
Unlike a real CEO, you cannot simply quit and walk away with a severance package. You have to keep showing up—remembering the appointments, fixing the meals, planning ahead, wiping the counters, spinning all the plates.
Sometimes we may technically keep the plates from breaking. But in the process, we break the hearts of those around us. As we survey the carnage of our loveless service, our own hearts break too.
On a crisp Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago, with our camping chairs perched atop dewy earth for outdoor church, it hit me that I wake up each morning as if on a throne, a sovereign who wants to rule over my own life and the lives of others. A VIP who wants to be served in ways that matter to me instead of serving in unseen, mundane ways. Enough with the daily tasks! Enough with the muck and mayhem of making a life!
As God opened my eyes to the condition of my heart, I was able to climb down from my throne and make amends with the people I live with before we ate Sunday lunch. Though I had met their physical needs during the week, I’d stomped on their hearts with my words and short temper in the process.
It is Christmas, the time of year Christians celebrate the unfathomable reality that a king left his throne to live among a needy people. A servant king who traded his royal robes for swaddling clothes. A humble king who folded himself into a mother’s womb and quietly entered the world to love us and to meet our ultimate needs. .
Christmas invites us to remember that the God of the universe came to unfold himself within us, to make us his home. By the power of his love and leading, we can let go and unfold ourselves into the lives of others, making a softer home in this world for those around us. He is the true gift that somehow keeps on giving through us.
From one weary soul living in a weary world to another, I want to remind you that visibility does not equal significance. Every counter you wipe, every dish you rinse, every word of consolation you offer, every meal you prepare, every ribbon you curl, every prayer you offer on behalf of another—it all matters.
We can continually serve and love because we were first served and loved by a king who stooped low and came to live among us, a fussy and desperate people whose needs never end.
As you unfold yourself into the daily lives of those you around you this Christmas week, may Christ himself bring you peace and perseverance.
He loves you.
And He loves through you.
Merry Christmas, friends.
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9