You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
Love what it loves.
~Mary Oliver, Wild Geese
Carols have been playing in department stores for weeks and holiday images permeate our media – homes lit with strung lights, greenery draped from banisters, candles glowing on mantles, families coming together in conversation, worship, and laughter. It’s all so perfect and lovely, isn’t it?
Well, there are lovely moments, sometimes strung together like prayer beads into a full day or more. But sometimes not so much.
When the kids were young, no matter how many times I told myself I wouldn’t do it, I succumbed to those heightened, commercialized, expectations. Craig reminded me the other day that one year we had six Christmas trees of various sizes and themes scattered throughout our home. They were beautiful but, in retrospect, a grasp at that shiny perfection we see on every magazine cover this time of year. If I weighed, now, the effort and expense in putting those trees up with the pleasure they provided, the effort would grossly outweigh the pleasure. And the sparkly dressing never really changed the reality of day-to-day life. Despite the splendor, we had family conflict (even more so because we were all exhausted), we experienced sadness and loss. I remember one year when a loved one overdosed and tried to avoid the paramedics by hiding behind the decorated tree in the dining room. The tree came crashing down onto the table, destroying glass ornaments and the centerpiece. In the end, none of that mattered. The only thing that any of us cared about was that a precious life was saved. We had more time together to learn and grow.
We’ve decorated our tree, hung the lights and set out the candles. Snow is falling and I put another log on the fire. It’s beautiful, and I still love it, but it’s not perfect. None of us are, and that’s okay. In the end, the only gift that really matters is the gift of time. The miracle of this moment.
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