Last week The New York Times published a personal essay by Jessica Strawser, the editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.
@DarlaMcDavid Thanks so much for the kind words–that means a lot! And I sure hope so. The novel is being submitted now, so fingers crossed!
— Jessica Strawser (@jessicastrawser) December 17, 2014
Several years ago on Christmas Eve, Jessica’s best friend was murdered by an ex-boyfriend. The tragedy happened only a few hours after Jessica had been with her friend, enjoying the holiday. Was there anything Jessica could have done to prevent the tragedy? She agonized over the question, and Christmas became a time of grief for her. Read Jessica’s essay where she shares the precious incident that helped her to move on.
Most of us know someone who has a difficult time living through the holiday season. There is no joy for your friend. The sounds and sights of Christmas stir up sad, even terrible, memories.
Or you may be the one who is having the tough time. You force your smiles, your greetings, and your gift giving when all you really want to do is get home, throw off the charade, and get into bed.
I remember when Christmas was that way for me.
It was 1999. My husband had left me in January and my mother had died from cancer in November. For the first time since he was born, my 10-year-old son would not be with me on Christmas morning. To top it off, the world was just a few days away from a global computer software collapse (Y2K), an incident which would interrupt my home business, my only means of income.
I had the Christmas blues in the darkest shade that year.
Yesterday I went through my box of Christmas decorations and pulled out the tree-topping star that I had purchased for my son’s first Christmas. I smiled as I looked at it, with all its scratches and smudges. There’s nothing fancy about it: five points of clear, hard plastic. It’s amazing how something so simple causes my heart to move in pangs of love, then in sadness, in hope, and then joy.
In those early years of the divorce, I considered replacing the Christmas tree star because it reminded me too much of a happier time.
I’m so glad that I didn’t.
That star is not about betrayal and divorce. It’s not about myself and the awful loneliness I felt on that Christmas Day of 1999. It’s not about sadness and having the holiday blues.
That star is about family, life, and my wonderful son. It’s about the story of God coming to dwell among us.
A divorce — or any other tragedy — cannot make dim what God chooses to make shine brightly. You and I allow that dimming to happen when we hold on to what’s blocking the light.
Oh, the ugliness of divorce. I arrived home after one particularly hard custody meeting, and my chest hurt in an unusual way. I thought I was having a heart attack.
I said to God, “Lord, I can’t take this anymore. This is too much. Why is this happening to me?”
And then it hit me: I can ask Him to do it. I could ask God to take on all that I was carrying. The emotional pain was not going away, no matter how hard I tried to keep it stuffed inside. The reminders — meetings, phone calls, emails — all were in full force and brutal.
This had to go. I had a son to care for and raise. I had a business to run.
I had a life to live.
So I asked God a selfish question, one that I realized He had waited for me to ask: “Will you take it for me?”
And He did, like a loving father would carry a heavy load for his child.
We are only human. God doesn’t expect us to live life without His help. We get so many thoughts and ideas driven into our minds that urge us to be superhuman. When depending on God through my Christian faith became a constant reality for me, that’s when I was able to move along with the pain. At the same time, I was learning a lot about myself and — even better — I was getting closer to my God.
Christmas is once again a joyful time. My son is a young man living his own life in the service of God. Today the star from his first Christmas tops the tree in my living room. When I look at it now, my thoughts center around how much I love my son and how much I love my God.
Yes, I still think about our Christmases before the divorce, but the memories no longer bring me down.
How can they when the Star calls on me to look up?
And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. (Matthew 2:9-10 ESV)
What about you? Is there something that happened in your life or the life of a friend that makes the holiday season a difficult time?