"It's more blessed to give than to receive."
This time of year, it's the motto you take in with every sappy Christmas movie, story, and song you encounter.
The motto you wish you would see etched on every grinch-like face you encounter at the mall, whirling through the stores with bags in hand oblivious to the cheery songs and lights and trees and giant ornament balls.
But it was in Target yesterday, smiling faintly at those people while I collected the last minute details of Christmas- cheap flashlights, soft peppermint balls, and black dry erase markers to stuff into stockings (seriously, these are all going to make my boys' Christmas!), but feeling this heavy inadequate feeling gnawing at my bones, that I realized receiving has to be the first step in all of this.
I'm feeling pretty tapped out this year.
Not all financially, though my husband certainly brought me back to reality earlier this week after an emotionally (on my part only) pregnancy-hormone driven conversation about what we're going to do when we have 3 children to juggle while I am at work by describing us as the "working poor".
Physically, even only at exactly 22 weeks, I am beginning to feel the stretch of my limitations. My lumbosacral joint aches every night. I have to better mentally plan my house cleaning so that trips up and down the stairs aren't quite so frequent, and my evenings walks with The Dude have slowed considerably. Sleep has become something I daydream about, especially on work days when I know I won't get much.
But mental energy is at its lowest point. I find myself shrugging my shoulders at others' seemingly endless stream of multi-tasking.
I simply can't keep the balls in the air. I can keep 20. But the 500 that seem to be expected of me, I've stopped trying to catch them.
And that's hard. There's a tendency to withdraw into oneself and nurse your own inadequacy. I am quite sure that is not the answer.
We've been constant recipients: of help, of money, of things, and of mercy, and there is no earthly way to repay. Sometimes the debt of it all feels so terribly heavy.
Until I remember that, while giving is what we are made to believe Christmas is all about: the most important thing of all about Christmas is our humble reception of it.
When I looked at those faces around me in Target, I realized that the frowns and ramming shopping carts are not because people aren't giving, or because all they want is to get. It's because they're afraid to receive. Or too proud, or too confused.
Some days, I see some of those same things in myself.
So this Christmas, I am making it my goal to fully receive Him again. Not to look for what meagre and meaningless ways I can repay Him, but to just smile at Him. The way Aquaman did after JT broke down and gave the boys their consignment shop Christmas presents he picked out for them a couple days early. To just stop, mid-play, full of the energy of the Gift, look Him in the eye and say "thank You for this. I love this." (I am pretty sure JT came close to crying. I know I did.)
Thank You that You don't ask us to repay You, or even that we write You a formal thank you card, but that we just share our Hope with those vacant and angry stares in the checkout lines of our lives (and please help me to be so filled up with this Hope that it can't help but spill out of me).
Thank You that the widow's mite means more to You than the giving of vast riches. That giving isn't measured in dollars or cents or hours. That it's our hearts You're really after this Christmas. Thank You for coming as a baby, because no one is scared or intimidated by a newborn baby, and You made yourself as vulnerable as possible for us.
Thank You that you came to a "working poor" family. To show us that You value everyone, and that You don't need our help to accomplish Your purposes.
My heart is leaking Christmas carols this Christmas Eve morning. It's filled with Joy to the World, and Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel. It's filled with the words of my favorite Christmas song: It Came Upon A Midnight Clear:
"Yet with the woes of sin and strife,
The world hath suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled,
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not,
The love song which they bring:
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing."
In our townhouse, filled with little boy shrieks, literal noise very rarely hushes. But as my parenting years go by, I hear noise differently. Noisy laughter, noisy yells, even noisy tears, those are, to me- merely the sound of angels singing. Much more threatening are the noises inside of my own head, or the noises of the world that creep into the everyday and scream of my inadequacy.
We have suffered long in this noise. But it's needless suffering.
Listen: He's singing a love song.