Sometimes I wonder if I’m in the wrong faith. I’m a divorced Christian woman with two children. Most of my friends are still married to their original spouses, have 2.5 kids, and post gorgeous pictures of their families on Facebook every day. Many of my friends are writers, and when I click over to their websites to read the about page, I question the value of everything I’ve ever done. Their bio pictures, perfectly posed with wife, husband, and 2.5 kids, are stunning. Usually, I do the right thing and tell myself I don’t know what’s going on inside their homes. Every person has their own baggage, their own sorrow, and their own pain. My job is to love my kids, enjoy my new husband, and find ways to honor God with the life I have, not the one I wish I’d had. Then, comes the holiday season.
I started having panic attacks about Thanksgiving and Christmas back in September. My husband, who is also divorced and has a real doozer of a painful story, asked me how we should spend Christmas this year. We were on a walk around the lake, holding hands. My dog, Alaska, was tugging on the leash. John brought it up in a kind and tender manner.
“Why do we have to talk about Christmas?” I asked, with a gulp. My heart started to race, beads of sweat appeared on my face. “Can we talk about this later?” I asked.
“Sure, but we’ll have to talk about it at some point,” he replied.
“Well, not today.”
What was once a blessed holiday, a light and merry season filled with lights, cookies, and beautiful songs around the fireplace, is now a season fused with stress, disappointment, and underlying panic. Memories haunt me. Shattered dreams chase me. How will I make it through this in one piece? I have no idea.
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I’ve started reading the gospel of Luke again. I recently finished Isaiah, which is quite the read if you haven’t taken the time to make your way through it. I especially liked the part about how God is doing a new thing. I also liked the part in Isaiah 58 that says the surest way to find true healing is by helping other people. For me, this is ever so slightly counterintuitive. When I want to experience healing, my go-to solutions are to lick my wounds, eat lots of chocolate, drink wine, and disappear under my covers with a romance novel. While there might be a place for that, that time is long over in my life. I have cried my tears. It’s time to rise up and let God do a new thing.
The other day, John was making dinner, chopping onions along with an orange pepper to go on top of the yummy salmon we were having. I was sweeping the kitchen floor. “I finished Isaiah,” I told him, leaning over to scoop the dirt into the dustbin. “Now, I’m going to read the four gospels, and I’m going to write down the things Jesus did and what he taught as a two-column list. Then I’m going to start thinking of practical ways to emulate what Jesus did.”
“Start with Luke,” he said, tossing the peppers into the pan. They sizzled. The fragrance of butter intermingled with onions permeated the air.
“Good idea. Luke is my favorite,” I told him. “He’s nice to the women.”
The next morning, journal in hand, I started reading the book of Luke. It opens with a story about two old people who have been faithful to God their whole lives but are disappointed – no babies for them. The angel Gabriel comes to make an announcement. His announcement is that…after all these years, they’re going to have a baby boy. Apparently, menopause is not to be trusted when God is in charge. Their long season of shame is over. The husband demanded a sign because a bright glowing angel standing before his naked eye isn’t enough to convince him. Gabriel got annoyed and silenced the old man for the entirety of his wife’s pregnancy. I’m guessing his wife was okay with this.
The next story in Luke is about the same angel, but this time, Gabriel makes an announcement to a young girl. She’s going to have a baby, too. Mary’s not exactly baby making material because she’s a virgin. However, God has got it covered. This baby is going to be the Savior of the world, the long-awaited Messiah. This is the moment when young Mary says goodbye to her nice little reputation and embarks on a completely new life. She doesn’t care. The honor of giving birth to the Messiah is worth a complete and total life transformation.
Mary heads over to her cousin’s house, and the pregnant women hang out together along with the silent husband.
Stuck, smack in the middle of this narrative is Mary’s beautiful praise song. God is mindful of the humble, lifts up the lowly, and doesn’t forget us…
Then, comes the long-awaited birth. Mary, along with her soon-to-be-husband, Joseph, can’t find a hotel. She ends up giving birth to Jesus in a stable-like cave just outside town, with the animals. Interesting place for the Savior of the world to be born.
At the end of the narrative, Luke adds one more story. It’s the story of some guys who were out and about on that strange Christmas night tending their sheep. It’s got to be the same angel who was doing his earlier rounds, and he ends up being sent to them to tell them that Jesus has been born.
“I bring you good news of great joy, which shall be for all the people. Unto you, is born this day, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11).
I mentioned earlier that sometimes I wonder if I picked the wrong faith. My life fell apart right when I was supposed to have it all together, and even with God’s help, I couldn’t get it back together enough to stay married. I ended up destitute, homeless, broken-hearted, and disappointed with life. Sometimes it’s hard to know the way through it.
Then, I turn to Luke, and I’m reminded that I came to the right faith, after all. Christianity is all about the wrong kind of people finding the right kind of love—a love that surprises us in the middle of the night with good news of great joy that is for everyone. It’s the faith that offers new beginnings to anyone who is looking for one.