The Lord is near to the brokenheartedand saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned. Psalms 34:18-22
I'm driving home late, channel surfing because of commercials and because whoever gave radio stations permission to begin playing pop versions of old Christmas classics the day after Thanksgiving ought to be tarred and feathered. My passenger is asleep and the road is long and smooth.
It's not even December 1st, I say earlier today, and I'm already tired of Christmas deals, faux cheer, and hip boycott Christmas-ness, and I'm not even kidding.
Everyone is either blissfully happy in December or on the verge of a mental breakdown, and, but for the Gospel, I'm the latter.
A few weeks ago I read an article by David Powlison with these words in it:
Wise, seasoned Christian faith creates the most realistic people of all, whether they are instinctively more contemplative or more active. It makes sense that such men and women will be characterized both by deeper sorrows and by deeper joys. It also makes sense that they will roll up their sleeves to do what need to be done to alleviate sorrow and multiply joy.
And I wept.
Because in the deep parts of me, I am still broken with a brokenness that comes to the surface in a deceptive confidence and joy. I have come through the fire and I have been kept—purified, but kept.
I don't know that you can experience a decade in which the long arm of God feels like the backhand of God and not feel like more brokenness is just around every corner.
Blessing in tangible form has never been my greatest blessing. Instead my greatest sufferings are where my greatest joy is found.
Ask for good things, my friends say to me, but I refuse because to not ask is to keep the possibility of brokenness stuffed further back and deeper in. The gospel is enough, I say, but what I mean is that I am enough, and this is a creeping idolatry.
December begins with my birthday and ends with Christmas and every day a reminder in the middle that my life now is not wrought with traditions or Christmas cookies or presents or good-will and cheer. It has been wrought, made, crafted, and built of the stalwart faithfulness of God to His child and that is it. I do not have traditions from the past decade to peer back on with nostalgia, I do not have a home with a stocking hung by the chimney with care, and I do not have a family unfractured.
I have God and He is with me.
Today I come home from Christmas decorating day at work smelling like sugar cookies and mulling spices, and someone shared this video and I weep again. It's a bit simplistic, but I am nothing if not simple. And it is about me.
I think that might be okay. I usually spend December trying to hide the brokenness, hide the heartbreak and the angst of my soul. But I wonder if saying, right out loud, that December is hard and I struggle with it is okay. Struggle does not mean that God is not near, or that He has abandoned, or He has forgotten, it simply means that in the void of the Cheer and Goodwill and Presents and Mistletoe, I see Him more clearly and know Him more dearly.
He is near.
So I don't know what your Christmas looks like this year or last year. And I don't know how difficult or pleasant a time it is for you. And I don't know if the fact that God is near, though He may not feel near, is a comfort or a curse to you. But I'm praying that if this is you, if Christmas is hard, if your plans for Christmas are to hide at home praying no one notices you—will you tell me?
And if you're in the Dallas-Forth Worth area, let me know too because you're invited to my house for Christmas. He came to bind up the broken and I suppose that a roasted chicken dinner and cider by the fireplace in a home where the Gospel is loved and known can be as binding and healing as anything else.