Maybe it’s because I am getting older, but I am so sad to take my Christmas tree down this year. For 28 years I have taken our Christmas tree down on the day after Christmas. Looked forward to it! I was always ready to get my house back “in order”. But this year the thought occurred to me, “What’s the hurry? Why all the rush?”
So tonight, I sit in the dark bathing in the peace of the twinkling blue and white lights of my heavily adorned tree. And I have decided to slow down, enjoy the glow, and leave my tree up until after New Year’s.
A PSALM OF LIFE
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
WHAT THE HEART OF THE YOUNG MAN
SAID TO THE PSALMIST
TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal ;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
“I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).”
My husband and I are blessed to have a terrific extended family…Both sides of the family tree are filled with loving folks, and we all enjoy getting together for holidays, birthdays, or for no particular reason at all…Just this weekend we had the pleasure of savoring a little of the Christmas season with my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and two of my nephews who live out of state…I realize that not everyone has the good fortune of such a loving family, and this time of year can feel like salt being poured into an open wound…If this has been your experience, I pray that the excerpt below from Max Lucado’s book “You’ll Get Through This” will be like the healing balm of Gilead for you this season…
“Go up to Gildead, and take the balm…
In vain you have used many medicines…”
~ Jeremiah 46:11
“I hope your childhood was a happy time when your parents kept everyone fed, safe, and chuckling. I hope your dad came home every day, your mom tucked you in bed every night, and your siblings were your best friends. I hope you find this chapter on family pain irrelevant.
But if not, you need to know you aren’t alone. If your least favorite part of the holidays is sitting across the table from the ones who were supposed to love you, you’re not alone.
Your family failed you. Your early years were hard ones. The people who should have cared for you didn’t. But, like Joseph, you made the best of it. You’ve made a life for yourself. Even started your own family. You are happy to leave Canaan in the rearview mirror.
But God isn’t.
Restoration matters to God. The healing of the heart involves the healing of the past.
He gives us more than we request by going deeper than we ask. He wants not only your whole heart; he wants your heart whole. Why? Hurt people hurt people. Think about it. Why do you fly off the handle? Why do you avoid conflict? Why do you seek to please everyone? Might your tendencies have something to do with an unhealed hurt in your heart? God wants to help you for your sake.
And for the sake of your posterity. Suppose Joseph had refused his brothers? Summarily dismissed them when they arrived in Egypt requesting refuge and help? Washed his hands of the whole mess? God’s plan for the nation of Israel depended upon the compassion of Joseph. A lot was at stake here.
There is a lot at stake with you too.
Yes, your family history has some sad chapters. But your history doesn’t have to be your future. The generational garbage can stop here and now. You don’t have to give your kids what your ancestors gave you.
Talk to God about the scandals and scoundrels. Invite him to relive the betrayal with you. Bring it out in the open. Joseph restaged the hurt for a reason. Revealing leads to healing. Don’t just pray, Lord, help me forgive my father. Unearth the details: God, Daddy never wanted to be a part of my life. He didn’t even come to my birthday parties. I hated him for that.
Or: Every day I came home from school to find Mom drunk, lying on the couch. I had to make dinner, take care of baby brother, do homework on my own. It’s not right, God!
Difficult for certain. But let God do his work. The process may take a long time. It may take a lifetime. Family pain is the deepest pain because it was inflicted so early and because it involves people who should have been trustworthy. You were too young to process the mistreatment. You didn’t know how to defend yourself. Besides, the perpetrators of your pain were so large. Your dad, mom, uncle, big brother—they towered over you, usually in size, always in rank.
When they judged you falsely, you believed them. All this time you’ve been operating on faulty data. “You’re stupid… slow… dumb like your daddy… fat like your mama…” Decades later these voices of defeat still echo in your subconscious.
But they don’t have to! “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (Rom. 12:2 NLT). Let him replace childish thinking with mature truth (1 Cor. 13:11). You are not who they said you were. You are God’s child. His creation. Destined for heaven. You are a part of his family. Let him set you on the path to reconciliation.
Joseph did. The process would prove to be long and difficult. It occupies four chapters of the Bible and at least a year on the calendar, but Joseph took the first step.
If God healed that family, who’s to say he won’t heal yours?”