Today Americans are hitting the roads and airports to return to their places of birth (as did Joseph and his young fiancée did long ago) or wherever their extended families now live. Many of you are already with family for the holiday.
I have learned that going back home for an extended time can be a difficult time spiritually. What I thought would be a restful refreshing time away from work and the responsibilities that constitute my mostly mundane life can become frustrating and stressful in a hurry.
Disillusionment and discouragement often replaces the magic that I believed Christmas would deliver. Put you in a house with other fellow strugglers and you have a recipe for tension that no gifts or football games can cure (if it were baseball, you might have a better chance…but we don’t have time for that here). I would like to offer a few suggestions for spiritual health during the holidays based on our experience of 32 years of going home. Perhaps one of two of them can help you adjust your perspective:
- Remind yourself that the greatest Christmas illusion is the Hallmark Movie illusion: real life is not like what those snowy, pretty sweater flicks portray. It is not like that for the people who are acting the parts of the show. If you get a few snowy, pretty sweater moments – celebrate and enjoy them. But lay your expectations of these unreal dreams down (actually the Hallmark life pales in comparison with the joy and peace that life with Jesus truly gives).
- Remind yourself of your identity as a follower of Christ. First, you are a child of God; you are his beloved and you have received his life and all the privileges that come with his kingdom. Secondly, you have turned your back on making your life about you. So, gladly receive what is abundantly yours and deny anew what you already know cannot bring you deep satisfaction: getting what you want to spend on yourself.
- Remind yourself that others around you are experiencing similar struggles. For example, while your parents and other relatives may be thrilled, even giddy you are visiting, that doesn’t mean they don’t need some moments away from you too. Remember, they are out of their familiar routines as well.
- Look to serve others rather than to be served by them. Try it; it works, especially with mom.
- Take breaks from people. I wouldn’t recommend locking yourself in your old room (that is now mom’s craft room) for a half day, but an hour for a walk or a drive can be therapeutic for everyone. Schedule breaks at times that are convenient for others. Announce them in advance when possible rather than just disappearing (I’ve done that one a few times). There are other ways to get time with yourself and God. Wake up first or stay awake last and be with God and yourself.
- Finally, live in grace for yourself and others. Receive God’s grace for you. You may not get as much time in God’s word or in prayer as you normally do. It’s okay; God isn’t ticked at you for it. And, give others grace as well. They may not be functioning at their best either. Rather than judge them, try lending them a hand.
There is much more that could be said about this topic. You may have some lessons you have learned and words of encouragement to offer below in the comments section. Why not share your insights with our community? It just might help someone else get through a difficult situation.