Do you remember where you were back in March? I can recall being at my fun, part-time job at an upscale boutique, and getting news that schools were closing and I had to close up shop and go home. It wasn’t long before people were hoarding toilet paper, arguing about wearing masks and personal rights, talking about someone eating a bat in China, and circulating conspiracy theories about Bill Gates and Big Pharma and 5G towers.
Busy downtown streets became ghost towns overnight. Small businesses closed for good. Families struggled with continuing school at home. People living alone were even more alone. Domestic violence increased. Mental health suffered. People died.
First off, let’s name all of that for what it is: awful. And though I know you’ve heard this a bunch of times (or at least I hope you have), it’s worth repeating:
It’s okay to not be okay.
It’s okay to be suffering. To be lonely. Afraid. Sad. Angry. Lost. It’s okay that you’re starting to crumble under the weight of supporting your children who are showing signs of stress and anxiety; and your elderly parents who you can’t really see anymore but still need your help; and your good friend who already suffered with serious depression and now doesn’t know what to do; and your sister who is a small business owner and has lost everything. It’s okay to feel like you’re drowning. We all are. In some way. At some point. Slow down. Be gentle with yourself. Eat some shortbread.
And if you feel like you can’t come up from the water, please seek help. Tell someone that you are not okay. Your best friend. Your pastor. Your doctor. Your therapist.
It’s okay to ask for what you need.
For me, one of the saddest things about this pandemic is how it has, in many ways, divided us. We watch on the news or even see at our local grocery store, how people are fighting. Trying to decide who’s right and who’s wrong when it comes to mask-wearing, prohibited gatherings, vaccines. We let our own rigid beliefs get in the way of togetherness. We trade kindness for cruelty. Honesty for scare tactics. Understanding for judgment. Instead of “us together” we become “us and them.”
But I have also witnessed and written stories about people and churches and charities who are getting it right. Who are coming together to be better. To help out, show love, and share what they have. People who look at difficulty and sadness and challenge as a rallying call to fight harder.
It reminds us what’s possible.
Nearly four years ago now, my marriage ended. And the way we celebrated Christmas changed. I was sad and my kids were sad and it just didn’t feel right. Can’t we go back to the way it was?
It was awkward at first, but as my ex-husband and I worked towards forgiveness and healing and a mutual respect despite no longer being together, we figured out a new way to celebrate Christmas that is just as wonderful. We did keep some favourite traditions – like walking through the neighbourhood in the snow on Christmas Eve to look at the lights, and opening presents right before bed, and of course we still put out milk and cookies for Santa. But we take turns celebrating in each of our homes, and sometimes his parents come down from up north and I show up on Christmas morning for breakfast with all of them. Or he comes to my home and we all open presents together, and then the girls and I head over to my parents’ place for Christmas dinner. There are presents just from Mom now. And some just from Dad. We still come together. Just a little bit differently. We will have to change things up again this year, but doing things in a new way can mean finding new things that you love.
As people of Christ, we rest in hope for new beginnings. Let us take that hope with us this Christmas as we both honour the loss and the challenges of 2020, and greet the season with gratitude, openness and excitement for making things new.