One of our pastors, Donny Martin, shares some thoughts about the Christmas season. May you be blessed as you read!
Christmas is one of my favorite times of year. Our family is excited about being with life giving family members, fun cousins, eating great food, watching good football and making life long memories. I would imagine that some of you can relate to our joyful anticipation. However, holidays with family may provoke other emotions that cause us to return to normal life exhausted and unthankful.
Is it possible to get through the holidays refreshed and more thankful? As our family’s departure from Baton Rouge gets closer, it seems that the emotions get loud and large, trying to take charge. At any given moment we can be a bundle of emotional paradoxes. One moment we experience joyful anticipation and can’t wait to be with loved ones. But I know, that within hours of being with family, something is said, or more often-not said, but seen or felt, and then without warning we tearfully swing into a paralyzing abyss and become an emotional mess. Now disillusioned and unable to recover joy, we can’t wait to leave and go back home.
Again, I ask: is it possible to get through the holidays refreshed and more thankful? Possible but not likely: unless we realize there are 3 things we can’t do to get through Christmas both refreshed and more thankful.
- There are people we can’t fix.
- There are issues we can’t iron out.
- There are expectations we can't meet.
We all have people in our lives that we think need to be fixed. Just thinking about them even before being with them leads to dread and frustration. The ones who bring every conversation back to themselves, dominating and controlling, sometimes they pout and pull away making the whole gathering feel awkward and cold. That person who can’t be confronted because it will only make matters worse. You find them at least frustrating, more likely infuriating, because they legitimately need to be confronted and fixed. Problem being that you may think you are the one with the right answer to fix them. Listen to me beloved: we can’t fix anybody because God didn’t make us to fix or change people. Fixing people is God's job (and their job) and God almost always “fixes” in ways and in a time frame that we would never imagine. Plus, He does a better job at it than we ever could! Stop trying to fix them, pray for them once and then let them go.
Pray- Jesus save and help ______________, be for them what I can’t be...their Savior, and do for them what I can’t do: save, heal, and equip them for your glory. Help me be who you made me to be and not fix them.
There will always be family issues or relational issues that we can’t iron out. One sibling always feels misunderstood, or a niece who always gets her feelings hurt, or the in-law who feels excluded and left out, that marriage that’s always on the rocks, the uncle who can’t keep a job or aunt who can’t keep the same uncle, the grandparent with no filter who hurts all the in-law’s feelings and lastly, the victims who never have enough or arrogant ones who always have too much. There will always be issues that can’t be ironed out. In my opinion “issues” is the post modern word for sin. Until Jesus returns there will always be sin/issues that need to be ironed out. The problem is that the ones with the issues are the only ones able to iron them out themselves, and they have very likely grown comfortable with their wrinkled issues and don’t want them ironed out. God loves you with your wrinkles and issues. Ask Him to help you love others with theirs.
Pray- Father thank you for ironing out, forgiving, and healing my issues. Thank you for loving me while I was (am) still in the “issues.” Father make me aware of the issues I would like to iron out, I surrender _____________ issues to you. Set me free to love people in spite of their issue’s and trust that in your time and your way that you will forgive, heal, restore, equip and iron out everything for your glory.
It is draining to be disappointed by others. It’s draining when my kids do not meet my expectation of obeying me quickly, cheerfully, & completely. It is very refreshing when they obey me quickly, cheerfully & completely. The problem is not them, the problem is me. I’m the problem because if I expect them to obey me cheerfully, quickly & completely over Christmas, around relatives but do not train them to obey consistently throughout the year, when no one is around, then I will be drained and disappointed. I have expectations for my kids behavior but I haven't helped them by training them. I will be less drained if I train more and expect less. One way we can come home after Christmas more refreshed and less drained is to be honest with ourselves about our expectations. We need to take responsibility for the expectations we put on others and set them free from our expectations even if we think they are reasonable. We are more blessed when we are expectation-less.
It is equally exhausting to be a disappointment to others who have expectations for you. Others will have expectations for what they think you “should do” based on what they want you to do while you are home over the holidays. They may expect a meaningful conversation, or a certain amount of time with you. They may expect you to affirm something they made or did. They may expect you to fix a family member and iron out their personal issues. They may expect you to say the right words and feel the fun feelings and show the right expressions at the perfect time so they feel better about themselves. All of this can be overwhelming and exhausting. Well then, you may be thinking, how do we deal with other’s expectations? The first thing to do in dealing with others expectations is to have honest conversations with others who will have expectations. Ask others what expectations they have for you, then objectively assess which expectations you are willing to meet (as well as other significant loved ones if it involves them), then honestly share with the family members which expectations you are willing to meet, so that you can go home after Christmas refreshed and thankful. This may seem easy, but someone will likely be disappointed. If (or when) they are disappointed with you remember: there will be expectations you cannot meet. Be free to not meet every expectation others place on us or we place on ourselves because most of these expectations are not placed on us by God. Everything God expects us to do will lead us to being more refreshed and more thankful.
Pray- Holy Spirt help me be free from the self serving expectations I’m tempted to have and place on others, even “holy ones,” so that I may receive with thankfulness the gifts and blessings that you want to give. Holy Spirit help me to have courageous and honest conversations with others about their expectations for me and help me discern your expectations from my own and others and free me to do only what pleases you while I love and honor others on your terms. Holy Spirit help me to return to life after Christmas more refreshed and more thankful.