Day 6 – A Sensitive Cynic’s Christmas Survival Guide.
I reckon the most relaxed, unstressed people around are those who don’t try to do everything perfectly. They keep all those plates spinning because they do a “good enough” job at the things that need to be done, so that they have time to excel at the things that really matter.
These are the peope who can vacuum and mop just a section of a room, rather than the whole floor, because they know that some cleaning is better than none at all. They also know that seeing a small area looking shiny will help keep them motivated to come back and do some more when they have a spare few minutes.
Just to clarify, I am not one of those people.
Although I keep it on a tight leash these days, perfectionism is a part of my nature, and it’s always threatening to bare it’s sharp teeth. I’m what my husband calls a “visionary”, which means I often get really carried away with the creative process, dreaming up grand schemes and big ideas. He usually has to be the one to say “honey, I just don’t think it’s gonna work, it’s just not realistic” (I hate that word). He’s usually right. Over the last few years, I’ve learned to access my own inner realist, because I’ve had to. And I’m learning to half mop the floor if that’s all I’ve got time for, and walk out the door feeling content. I’m becoming a “floor half clean” rather than a “floor half dirty” kind of person.
The apostle Paul wrote “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want”.
Well, as for me, I have learned (the hard way) the secret of being content, whether in chaos or in order, whether I’ve crossed off the whole list or whether I did none of it, whether I vaccumed the whole house or just the one small patch of floor that wasn’t covered in mess.
So what’s changed?
Well, trying to be perfect didn’t work out so well. I just ended up utterly miserable and feeling like a failure. So I eventually learned to enjoy not being perfect. After all, who likes the person who can do everything effortlessly and brilliantly? Aren’t they just incredibly annoying? Why do we aspire to be like that person if we can’t stand to be around them?
Ironically, the mythical person who is good at everything, looks great and seems to have it all together is completely flawed in one area:
They can’t relate to the rest of us mortals. And so they are in danger of one of the biggest stumbling blocks there is – getting proud and judgemental. And that’s just an ugly way to be. The same principle applies to those who think they have it all together and are never wrong too.
I could spend all my time planning and creating a perfect Christmas, complete with a beautifully decorated home, great gifts, exquisite home-made food, and all the “trimmings”. Those things are wonderful. But they are just the wrapping. What’s the point of beautiful wrapping without a beautiful gift inside?
To receive an unwrapped gift is still a wonderful thing, even though unwrapping it would have made the experience feel more complete and special. But no-one wants a beautifully-wrapped empty box. Better not to bother with the wrapping at all if that’s the case. Who wants to be invited to a beautifully decorated home with delicious food and amazing presents, if the people are stressed out, fed up, exhausted and irritable?
So if the trimmings, traditions, food, presents and the like are the Christmas “wrapping”, what is the actual “gift” then? What should be at the heart of Christmas?
You think I’m going to say, “the baby Jesus”, I’ll bet. Isn’t that what a Christian should say? Maybe, but I think, sadly, celebrating the birth of Jesus can sometimes become an empty gesture, if we don’t value what matters to him the most – the matters of the heart.
These are the things Jesus did – He showed love to the “unlovable”, the ones who constantly messed up. He had patience with those who let him down, he was at peace amongst absolute chaos, gave to those who couldn’t give back, and showed humility and grace. Does that sound too difficult? Too perfect? Maybe. Only Jesus could manage that right?
So what’s the point in trying then, if we will inevitably mess up? Ah, but didn’t I just say that messing up is actually the key to keeping us grounded and humble, and able to connect with other mortals? So then try and fail, and try and succeed, and then fail some more, and then succeed some more. Take a risk, get messy.
Just a step in that direction is better than sitting around saying “that’s impossible so I’m not even gonna bother trying”. It’s like me mopping a small section of the kitchen floor. It’s not much, but it’s a step in the right direction, and that tiny bit of shiny floor looks so lovely, it might even spur me on to do some more tomorrow and before I know it, the whole kitchen floor is sparkling (for 5 minutes, and then I need to start again…)
So, at the heart of Christmas I want love, joy, peace, humility, grace and kindness to be in my heart. If I could wrap it with lovely food, presents and trimmings, that would almost be perfect. But if I can’t do both, I think my loved ones would opt to take the gift unwrapped, rather than an empty, but beautiful box.
Thought for today:
The apostle Paul, wrote about some sort of “weakness” of his (though he doesn’t say what it is). He begged God to take it away….
“But [God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me”
If we can’t allow ourselves to make mistakes, to make a mess of things, to be wrong, to show our vulnerabilities and our weaknesses, then we our robbing ourselves of joy, of connection with others and spiritual growth. For me, I find the more I struggle and mess up, the closer I get to God (who is perfect) as I keep having to lean on him for help. And that feels good.
Task for Today:
Today, I want to ask God to give me all I need to show unconditional love, patience and grace, even to those who are being a bit “unlovable”, this Christmas, because I really can’t do it in my own strength. Then, I want to ask him for help to make sure I don’t neglect to give the gift because I’m too focussed on the wrapping.
Quotes taken from The Bible:
Philipians 4.12 and Corinthians 12.9