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Editor's Note: We are a non-religious magazine. However, we acknowledge that spirituality is an important part for some. Our Faith column is a place for anyone to discuss how faith positively affects their mental health and how to improve the conversation around mental health within faith communities.
When I think about Christmas and the winter holidays my thoughts flash to celebrations, festive music, movies, and delicious baking. The winter holidays, for most, are a time of rest and joy.
I spend a lot of the time leading up to the holidays anticipating the exciting times I’ll have. I have often-unrealistic expectations for what will happen during my holiday time. I don’t know if it’s the media that has painted this expectation, but for as long as I can remember I have expected the winter holidays to be perfect.
I dream of big miracles amounting in moments of peace, hope, and of inexpressible joy.
I not only expect the winter holidays to be perfect, I expect those around me to be merry, and I expect myself to carry the spirit of holiday cheer everywhere I go.
As the winter holidays come and go, year after year, I enter into the New Year feeling disappointed by the season that has just past. I feel disheartened that I couldn’t live up to the expectations I had, and neither could those around me. The New Year usually comes like a rude wake up call as I make an endless list of resolutions, hoping that these changes might create a better me, a better year, a better outcome for the next holiday season.
This year I’ve graduated from university and I’ve spent the better part of the year working in a full time job. The community I work in is a nice place, the homes are expensive, and most of the population is well off. There are few to no pockets of poverty, and accessible resources surround those who do have vulnerabilities.
Some people express thankfulness for the things they have.
However, there seems to be an overarching expectation that all the services and supports will always be there and will be delivered at a certain level of excellence. Appreciation and thankfulness sometimes comes when a service goes above and beyond.
On Friday nights, I volunteer on the Downtown Eastside. I work with people who are suffering with addiction, who have lost most dignity and hope. The appreciation these people show for the supports and services they are able to access is opposite to that of the people I first described.
The people I volunteer with on Fridays have nothing, and they expect nothing. Because they don’t live in expectation of life being perfect, or those around them being perfect, when good things show up, their thankfulness is so radiant. These people understand that they have made mistakes; they will continue to make mistakes. They recognize they are often undeserving of the good gifts they are given.
I see myself in the people I described first, especially during the winter holidays. I expect good, perfect things. I expect people to cater to me. I expect everything to be about me.
I carry the mentality that I certainly deserve the best moments.
I cease to be thankful for the special occasions, let alone the ordinary. I only feel fulfilled and thankful when things meet my unrealistic expectations (which is rarely to never…).
I see my thoughts, actions and my sentiments of deservedness in the people I described first, but when it comes down to it I should be relating to the people I described second. I have failed, lost hope, made mistakes. I am addicted to maintaining control, worrying, and trusting in my plans over Gods. I am nothing and have nothing without God.
Where I differ from the people I described second is in my attitude.
Instead of walking around with a spirit of thankfulness for all God has done and makes me, I carry an attitude of arrogance, as if I am super important and deserving of only the best. I am no better and no worst than any of the people I’ve described.
We “have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “it is by grace [we] have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). No matter how many good or bad things we do, regardless of how many resolutions we check off our lists, we will never deserve the grace of God.
When we place the focus on us, and anticipate above and beyond instead of reveling in what already is, the winter holidays will always end in disappointment.
Each New Years will be filled with resolutions focused on us, and how we can better our lives.
We will never feel like we are enough, and we will never be enough until we let Jesus into our every moment.
Not until we overflow with thankfulness for the incredible gifts we already have been given. I am challenged this year to approach the winter holidays with an attitude of thankfulness for everything I already have.
I want to live in the recognition that the Christmas season is about the birth of Jesus, who by God’s grace makes me enough in every area of my life.
I shouldn’t live in expectation of how others, or myself, can make the winter holidays perfect.
I will always make mistakes and my plans, and the plans of those around me, without God, will ultimately end in disappointment.
God never fails. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). I challenge you to anticipate how God will move this holiday, seek Him and His plans for your holiday, and take time to acknowledge God’s incredible grace and to give thanks for the incredible undeserved gift we have all been given.
Wondering where to start? Read the story of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:1-10). “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6).
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