Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Lessons

Another year, another Christmas has passed me by. This year, it went by at the speed of light. No "Christmas Carol" or "It's a Wonderful Life". In fact, I had a surgery the day before Christmas Eve. Now, isn't that exciting? So here I am, two days post Christmas and I'm taking stock of what has transpired these last few days.

Despite my surgery, I wanted to make a point of ensuring the normalcy of Christmas day. And as it played out before me, I think my wife and I pulled off a normal Christmas for the kids. I think that is important for kids. They don't really care that I had surgery (well sort of), anyway, they just want their lives to be normal.

I believe this is what my parents did so well, although, maybe they did it too well. You see, I thought my childhood was normal. My parents didn't provide any evidence to us to make us believe the contrary. We lived in a middle-class house, in a middle-class town. My parents had middle-class jobs and we lived a very normal middle-class life.

But as I think back on it, I noticed several difficult decisions my parents had to make. They needed to decide on whether to move cross country or be without employment. They made this decision three times. They also had a rough patch in their marriage which we were relatively insulated from. Sure they seperated for a few months, but in the end, were able to work things out and restructure our normal life. They never really talked about these difficult decisions with us kids. They never let on what challenges they were facing, many of which were life-altering. We just continued to live the "Leave it to Beaver" sit-com life.

Now that I'm an adult, I am wondering how far we should pull the curtain back for our kids. Do they need full disclosure; partial disclosure? What is appropriate for them? I think we've decided that partial exposure is healthy. We believe they need to know that life is not perfect. Life isn't some make-believe tale that always has a happy ending. There are difficult things to overcome when you become an adult. If you protect your children too much then you're just asking for trouble later, or worse, they won't be equipped to handle situations as adults. I can honestly say, I was poorly equipped to handle many of the hardships I've faced as an adult, because my parents simply kept me in the dark. 

I'm re-reading a book by Donald Miler called Blue Like Jazz. The title has really nothing to do with the content of the book, other than it's abstract, much like the book itself I guess. In one of the chapters, he discusses the idea of pride. As Christians, we all know that pride is bad. In fact, the bible tells us that God wants us to walk humbly with him, which would obviously, exclude any pride you may have.  But what I like about the book is the way Miller talks about pride. Not in the usual patting yourself on the back way, but rather in how we judge people.

The example he gives is how we feel pity for someone who uses foodstamps. We feel sorry for them and want to help them because they're poor. But the government is already buying them food, what we want to do is buy them dignity. After all, how could anyone have dignity if they needed charity, as well? I find this mind-opening stuff.

I say to myself, "I think I want to live the life my mom and dad had, because if I don't, then I can't have any dignity". I associate dignity with middle-class living. If I don't at least live up to that standard, then I am in some way, not good enough. Sadly, I have judged people according to this same off-putting standard. My sisters, their kids, my in-laws, my patients, my neighbors, and the list goes on and on. Why is it so difficult to accept people where they are in life and not compare them to some self-imposed benchmark?

So this Christmas I got lots of DVDs and that's about it. However, I also got this new way of looking at life. I hope to help my kids avoid the traps that I have discovered myself stuck in. I hope to navigate away from these snares and accept people for what and where they are. After all, we're all sinners in need of a savior. We all fall short of God's standard because we all want to do things "our way". So won't you walk with me, this humble little stroll with our Lord, and put off the things of this world?

Be comforted and find acceptance in His grace which we so desperately need at this time of year.

Merry Christmas and happy New Year.

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