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Loving broken people

Christmas, for all of its glory, can be hard on you sometimes. People who love each other but who have lived apart from one another for a year get together for Christmas.   During that year, life has happened. In our home, for example, we have guests who have spent much of the year grievi…
By Seth Barnes
IMG 3537Christmas, for all of its glory, can be hard on you sometimes. People who love each other but who have lived apart from one another for a year get together for Christmas.
 
During that year, life has happened. In our home, for example, we have guests who have spent much of the year grieving the loss of their mom to cancer.
 
Yet when we sit down to talk, we don’t begin there. We begin by talking about stuff that doesn’t matter as much. 
 
Yesterday we began by talking about the unseasonably warm weather here in Georgia. Then we talked about the food we were going to be eating. Then we reviewed of some of our successes this past year.
 
We began there because, at this point, we don’t really have permission to put anything painful out on the table. I don’t want to share my failures or struggles and neither does anyone else.
 
Yes, it would be a great relief if I felt that people cared about my struggles, but frankly I’d rather keep my brokenness out of sight. And so does everyone else. We push that stuff to the background. “Why burden others with it?” We think. We’re here to enjoy our time together. No one wants to be Debbie Downer.
 
Which brings up a problem. How do we really connect this Christmas? How do we move beyond the surface to the stuff that maybe God wants us to touch? Is there the possibility of bearing one another’s burdens or even experiencing a measure of healing in a place like this?
 
It’s a challenge for sure. I have to remind myself of my own brokenness if I’m going to summon up the courage to be available to connect with someone else where they are struggling. Even harder: I may have to summon up the courage to shine the light on the gap between where I’d like to be and where I actually am.
 
That’s not a comfortable place. Because we’ve been apart so long, I don’t know if you’ll respond appreciatively. So I’d rather tell you about the cool stuff in my life – the project I’m working on, the book I’m writing.
 
The problem is that we humans aren’t wired to connect at a heart level over one another’s successes. Somehow, for a lot of people, my success may make you feel smaller. Your broken place feels a little shabbier and your complicated life feels a little more tawdry when put up against my success.
 
On the other hand, my brokenness may be an invitation to relax and stop trying so hard. It may be a safe place for you to land with the pieces of your life that aren’t working so well.
 
And your struggles, if you choose to share them, may make my Christmas a little bit brighter. They may be the very gift I was looking for – a gift I knew wasn’t under the tree, but which I was hoping I might be surprised by somewhere in this house full of people whose lives looked so good compared to mine.
Maybe it’s too much to hope for. I’m praying for it here. How about in your household? Do you see this dynamic at work? Will you be able to share your struggles? Will anybody in your home see that as a gift?

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