Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Contemplative Christmas Letter

It is the season of Christmas, lights, miracles, family and friends. Of candy canes, shopping malls, presents and laughter. Of champagne, glorious food and music. As all my friends and family undoubtedly know, I love this time of year.

This Christmas season, I find myself in overwhelming awe of my blessings. With another baby on the way, I find myself contemplative, reflective, and no doubt, emotional. And in the past year, while more fully realizing all that I have to be grateful for, I find myself confused.

Jason and I just watched Romero, the film looking at the life and work of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, who thirty years ago was murdered for his stand against violence, his plea for dignity, freedom and peace for his people. The people of El Salvador are shown to be in a state of destitute that I will never comprehend, as I'm not sure any modern American could, for they are in constant fear of murder, torture, rape and kidnapping.

I am unsure of the state of El Salvador today. In fact, I am not a very worldly person and am unsure of the state of government in basically every country, including our own. But I do know this: I was born into a country, into a neighborhood and into a family where on the very first day I came into the world, I received more blessings than so many will ever know in their lifetime.

Why? Why me? These questions and realizations stir a deep sense of guilt in me, as well as the feeling that I am undeserving.

When I read the news or watch films like Romero, I am plagued with further questions. As an American, middle-class stay at home mom, I simply try to live a good, Christian life, to raise my family the best I know how and to have some fun as well. What could I possibly do to influence the state our world is in? How can I help those suffering on the other side of the world? How can I help those suffering in my own city?

And when these thoughts stir in me, I experience a crushing sense of helplessness.

So many of the things I do in my life can seem petty. Wrapping Christmas presents. Dusting. Doing laundry. Grocery shopping. Cleaning up pee off of the floor. Christmas decorations. What is it all for?

Please don't mistake me, I am not pitying myself. And I am not undermining the importance of the work that I do, or the work of so many of the other mothers I am blessed to know. I chose this life very intentionally and with pride and I am so grateful to be able to do it. But sometimes the lifestyle of Americans and of our culture can seem so meaningless. What is my purpose in this life, in this world? Is there something more I can or should be doing?

 Burdened by this confusion, I spoke with my mom about some of these thoughts a couple of weeks ago. She, like any wonderful mother, thinks I am a perfect angel and need not worry about these things. She reminded me of the work Jason and I do for Engaged Encounter. And she also spoke of a different type of suffering, a different type of poor--one that is around all of us despite all of our blessings. The poor in Spirit.

It seems that our culture is so full of people who are lost, who are sad, who are angry and who are without hope. Drugs, pornography, guns, alcoholism, physical and emotional abuse, addictions to work, addictions to shopping, depression--these things are a darkness cast in our society whose shadows are foreign to me, and yet are very real problems right here, right now.

And further still, there are seemingly smaller problems: selfishness, rudeness, loneliness, sadness, unfriendliness, laziness, addiction to technology, boredom and indifference. These ailments of course seem trivial to many of those we hear about occurring in other parts of the world. But do they not cause a slow "death?" Are they not the reason for the poor in Spirit here among us?

I may not have the funds right now to support the causes I would like to. I certainly do not have the time to volunteer for every organization I think worthy. I may not be able to pack up all my belongings right now and travel to a struggling part of the world where they need my help. I wish I could do all of these things. With all of my heart, I wish I could.

But I am rich in Spirit.

In my adult life so far, this is the one constant I hear. Passion, enthusiasm, energy, spark; these are part of who I am. I am so in love with my husband, with my family and with my life, and this creates a joy in me that others witness.

So this Christmas season, I may weep for those I cannot help in El Salvador. I may feel sad that I cannot buy all of the gifts I would like to for my friends and family. I may feel frustrated that this six month pregnant body is just too tired to do everything I would like to.

But I can be rich in Spirit. I can smile. I can laugh. I can be generous with what I have. I can be compassionate, kind and forgiving. I can try to be more patient with my children. I can let my loved ones know just how much I love them.

For now, that is what I have to offer. It is not glamorous. It is not epic. But that is what I can do right now.

This is the season of hope. Let us not dwell on all we cannot do, but thrive in all that we can.

Merry Christmas.

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