It’s the Christmas tradition I’m ready to ditch.
Living away from extended family means most of our holiday celebrations are either shared with friends or spent with merely my four fellow Holmbergians. More often than not, it’s the latter. As an introvert, that’s often okay with me. Other times it produces a subtle but steady pain, similar to a headache that you don’t quite realize you have until you find yourself spitting nails at your spouse — utterly unprovoked.
Every year, the days leading up to the holiday slowly erode and I find myself standing on unstable emotional ground. Internally, I hope for an invitation to join friends for celebration. Yet I know it may not come: many folks travel, receive loved ones from far away or live locally to their own extended family. If I want to be certain to share the day with others, the grown up thing to do is reach out and extend an invitation myself.
The problem is I’m not always so grown up.
I have a juvenile insecurity that assumes everybody else has a full dance card. I fear when I get up the gumption to call friends that it will be answered negatively… they’ll already have plans to celebrate with others. Which would, in turn, confirm my belief that the whole planet has their holiday cohort pre-established and that I’m the only one left out. (Sing it with me now, “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I’m going to eat some worms.”)
I didn’t say it was a rational belief.
The result is that I put myself in a never-ending cycle of insecurity-induced loneliness: to prevent potentially hearing that my friends have plans elsewhere, I choose not to extend an invitation at all. In so doing, I rob myself and my family of the joy of fellowship. But that’s not all; my fear doesn’t just hurt me and my household, it denies us the opportunity to bless others who might enjoy a shared celebration, as well.
Immanuel. God with us. Jesus came to enter our world — our very lives — to restore our relationship with God to wholeness, thereby bringing glory to the Father. His incarnation and sacrifice eradicated our alienation from a most holy God. Jesus is the Gift of With-ness. (Sounds like my tongue is pinched between my fingers, doesn’t it?)
I want this truth about our Jesus to comfort me, quench the feelings of loneliness, but also embolden me. Because of Immanuel, we need no longer experience the ache of feeling left out. God is with us. Always. (Matthew 28:20) With that knowledge stored in my heart, maybe I can summon the courage to reach beyond the limits of my self-imposed isolation and throw open the doors to whomever might wish to join us for dinner this year.
I won’t be serving worms.
Do you struggle with similar issues? Or am I the only one?
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