Last night I talked to an old friend - really talked - about how things were going. Most of the time we just talk and don't talk about the real things of life, you know, the hard stuff. But last night was different.
She actually did most of the talking; it was a part of her I hadn't really seen before; vulnerable, broken, and sad. This old friend of mine did most of the talking and, once she started, it was like I wasn't even there.
Afterward, she gave me permission to share what she said here in my blog; and I'm not going to use her name since, if anyone still checks my blog (after months of me being gone) some of you locals will know her. Since I'm not a real writer, and I wasn't taking notes or recording it and I'm going to say that the following is mostly non-fiction because they are her words but may be slightly fiction (where I need to fill in the blanks):
It's been a long day;
a hard week;
a difficult month.
Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person struggling - but I know that can't be true. Yet I feel like I'm surrounded by people who don't have a clue how hard things are for me. I feel so alone in this life sometimes.
I left the office today with the intention of picking up just a few groceries: some potatoes and eggs and maybe just a few other things because I needed to put gas in the car too so that I could get back and forth to work - if I can't get back and forth to work, I can't make money and get paid. But as I walked through the store, I realized that I needed more things at home so that the kids could eat meals and my husband could keep packing lunches for work.
So, I stood there with a decision to make. Do I buy groceries or do I save the money to put gas in my car to get to and from work? I don't know for sure that it's a choice I'm going to have to make, but it's a possibility. Then what?
Obviously, I bought the groceries; I trust God to provide - not sure what it's going to look like at this point but I'm going to feed my family.
While I was in Wal-Mart I needed windshield washer fluid and then made my way to the groceries; so from one end of the store to the other. People were rushing by me - pushing, yelling at their kids, impatient with husbands and wives - while they held their shopping list and had their carts filled with toys, electronics and other things. All in the name of "merry Christmas" I suppose.
As crappy as I'm feeling, you can imagine how this makes my husband feel; last week he asked me if I still loved him and respected him as the provider of our family. Broke my heart! How do I make him understand that this doesn't change the way I look at him when I know, for a man, not being able to provide financially for his family cuts right to the core of him. You may as well cut off his man parts.
Of course I still love him and respect him - we're in this together; we'll go through this together and we'll get out of this together - whatever "get out of" looks like! Unfortunately, the reality is that we have a conversation daily about where the money is going to come from to pay for this and to pay for that...and this strong man is made to feel like a failure again. It's really hard on a marriage; because I know how hard this is for him, I try to keep these things to myself but then I feel even more alone and it's hard on a marriage too.
Then, in the middle of all this, everyone around me is all about Christmas - counting down days, talking about the good deal they got, the things they've already bought - and everyone running around with a list: things they need to do and gifts they need to buy yet.
I don't have a list this year. (Pause)
We haven't bought any gifts this year...and we're not sure we will. In all the years that we've been married, there have been times when we had to "finagle" to get Christmas gifts bought, but this year is different. Really different.
We're okay not giving gifts to each other - but we're having a hard time with the thought of not being able to give gifts to the kids. Christmas is a little more than a week away and we know "impossible" is not a word in God's vocabulary, but right now, possible just doesn't seem like one either.
We're also not going to be able to give a lot of other gifts we normally give - that's hard to swallow too. I guess when it comes down to it, it's pride. It's much easier to accept a gift from someone when you know you have one to give back. I know I'll be receiving gifts from some of my co-workers because it's a tradition, it's what we do. But this year I won't have one to give in return. I know they'll say it's okay but for me it's not and that's a part I'm having a hard time with too. If I'm a Christian why I am so caught up in not being able to give gifts rather than being focused on the greatest gift that's ever been given?
The conversation went on for a little while longer; but it has really stuck with me for a few reasons:
One of them I'm not going to point out.
Two, as a Christian I do profess the reason for the season but is that really my main focus? The other night on the radio I heard Dr. David Jeremiah talking about how much money Americans spend on various occasions like Valentines day, Mothers/Fathers Day compared to Christmas. I don't remember the exact number but Americans spend somewhere around 200 million dollars at Christmas while the other ones were 9-11 million.
In a generation when people are so self-centered and "me" focused we spend that much money on giving gifts to other people.
I love giving good things to my children and giving gifts to my friends, but I can't help but feel like Christmas has become some sort of competition and, even in my Christ-filled heart, I'm more concerned about the appearance of my gifts than the greatest gift that has ever been given. Merry Christmas.
God, forgive me for being so wrapped up in the things of this world again; for taking the beautiful gift of Christmas and distorting it the way I have. I surrender to you all that the world offers me and I take only what you give - the gift of you, and the promise that the gift brings. Thank you for loving me and for showing me grace, grace, grace...Amen.