"Oh, Holy Night
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth..."
"Silent night, holy night..."
Well... it was and it wasn't.
Holy- yes. God was executing His great rescue plan for humanity. Showing us His great love by sending His Son to earth to live as one of us. Holy, and divine and sacred.
And also pretty regular. Except for some shepherds near Bethlehem who had this completely surreal experience that they MUST have been doubting was even real just a few hours after it was over; unless you were them it was just another night. I mean, if you were living anywhere else- in a Mayan village or China or even up the road in Jerusalem, that night was nothing big at all. Just a night.
But I bet it was actually pretty crappy for those actually involved in the story- the ones we sing about in those songs where we call the night "silent" and "holy" and "divine." I've given birth. It's pretty gross. And it hurts. A LOT. And it turns out giving birth for the first time is pretty terrifying even with epidurals and episiotomies and c-sections and doctors and nurses galore. Imagine being in a barn. Alone. No mid-wife to help. And barns are filthy and smelly and uncomfortable and WRONG for having a baby. Just wrong. I imagine young Mary thinking, "Surely this isn't how it was supposed to be."
And that's also me. Right now. In a deeply important part of my life. Looking around me and thinking "This is wrong. Surely this isn't how it's supposed to be." I'm lonely and afraid and terrified of how dead I feel inside but also terrified of waking up again because to wake up means to HOPE. And when you hope you make yourself vulnerable to pain. And disappointment. And crushing, heart-breaking realities. And so it feels easier to just stay asleep.
But when I'm asleep, I'm not ME.
And God created each of us to BE US.
I'm not a good mom when I'm not me. No- I'm probably good. I'm probably okay. But I'm not GAYLA. I'm not Gayla-as-a-mom if I'm asleep inside. Nor am I Gayla-as-a-friend, Gayla-as-a-wife, Gayla-as-a-person even. I may be saving myself some pain (or at least I tell myself that's what I'm doing), when in reality I'm just delaying it. Or worse- exacerbating it by letting it pile up un-dealt with.
The past several Christmases I always seem to struggle with feeling like there is something I am missing. In my younger days- not just childhood, but far into my 20's- I used to be able to tap in to the Spirit. The feeling you are "supposed" to have at this time of year. I could ponder the miracle and the gift of the season and be filled with wonder and aching beauty. I felt an aching longing then too, but I had HOPE. Hope that one day this ache would actually be replaced with fulfillment. But instead of fulfillment I have received disappointment. And as Proverbs says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick." Today, right now, I am heart-sick. Maybe even soul-sick. And I'm tired of hoping.
But today I also chose to lean into those around me who continue to hope FOR me. I lean into my friends when my heart and soul are too sick and sad to hold my own arms up anymore and I borrow their strength.
And... I am comforted by the thought that THAT holy, divine night may have felt a lot like THIS sad, lonely night. And that does not make it any less holy. Any less divine.
In fact, maybe THIS is what holy really feels like.