Monday, November 28, 2016

The Pressure's On!

It’s holiday time! I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot of pressure this time of year. Christmas shopping is just about the perfect storm for someone with chronic pain and mobility issues. Standing, walking, browsing, waiting in lines…Ugh, the very idea of it is dreadful. Yet, at the same time, I long to get just the right gift for everyone on my list, so I look for alternatives. Those motorized carts are so big and clumsy, and the last time I used one, it died in the middle of an aisle, at the farthest point possible from the door of the big box store I was in! Online shopping is less than ideal, as you can’t touch and turn the item in your hands. It’s hard to know how most things really look. Colors are often not true, and dimensions of things are hard to visualize. Gift cards are an option, but they seem so impersonal. It seems there is just no substitute for the painful process of actually getting out there and shopping, if you really want the “perfect” gift.

If you struggle with chronic pain and mobility issues, I’m sure you can relate, and you could probably add your own unique challenges to my list. So, my suffering sisters, what do we do with the holiday shopping dilemma? I hope you’re not like I was yesterday, feeling frustrated about the whole thing, snapping at my husband and generally being super grumpy (yes, I repented). I want to enjoy the holidays, don’t you? I want to focus on time with family and friends, not schlepping around the mall or sitting in front of the computer for hours. If this is going to happen, we are going to have to change our approach.

What is Christmas really about? Is it about gifts? Well, sort of. It’s about one gift—the gift of Jesus Christ coming into the world to save sinners like you and me. How is shopping necessary to celebrate that truth? It’s not. So why do we get so worked up over it? Is it because we want to express love to our families? We can do that without killing ourselves searching for the perfect gift. It’s OK to get a gift card, or to buy something online without knowing every detail about it. Girls, if we are going to enjoy the holiday, we are going to have to give up our insistence on things being like they used to be, or like we’d like them to be.

The fact is, the Lord has ordained this pain and/or disability for our good and His glory. If we keep struggling against the fact that “real” Christmas shopping is just too much for us now, then we will end up like I was yesterday, grumpy and discontented. We will need to die to ourselves if we are to truly represent Christ this year. Let’s give up this annual wrestling match, and enjoy the peace that this season embodies. The best way to let someone know you care is to love and encourage them all through the year, not to find the perfect gift for a single day.

It is not the gift that matters, but the relationship between the giver and the recipient. You can nurture that relationship without taking a single step into a store, or standing in any lines. Throughout the year, you can offer words of encouragement, a phone call to check in, a text of Scripture, daily prayer, and a thousand other things that will say to that person, “I love you and I truly care about you.” Then, when December rolls around, perhaps the gift-giving pressure will be off. Maybe you do these things already. If so, that’s great! What are you sweating about? Your friends and family know that you love them, and they know about your limitations. The last thing they would want is for you to put pressure on yourself for their sake.

Let’s do things differently this year. Let’s refuse to pressure ourselves about the gift-giving, and remember that God knows our weaknesses, and is able to give us the strength that we need—maybe not as much as we want—but all  that we need. Let’s trust Him to bless our Christmas in His way, by His grace. After all, this season only exists because of His birth. Who are we to say it has to meet certain expectations? No, we must repent of wanting things our way, and rejoice that He has already provided all we really need. Rather than becoming obsessed with the perfect gift, we must focus on the fact that we are perfected in Christ. Instead of standing in lines, we will stand on His promises. Cyber Monday can become a Sabbath, if we will only rest in His grace. Hallelujah! What a gift! What a Savior!