I stand on the precipice of Christmas, and I can't help feeling this next step is a tumble and a trip rather than a forward leap. My faith teaches me to march forward, down a certain path, towards an end that awaits me with open arms. That path was first walked by Jesus, the living son of God, whose birth we mark with this holiday. I know my path, just like His on Earth, is not always clear, the march not always easy, and the end not always in sight. I'm with all that - dig it - I can handle that part.
My real worry is this: I'm not entirely convinced that I've headed down the right path - and now I'm now dragging my children along on this path. What if I mangled the whole path thing and now I'm skidding off to some forsaken end with no open arms and no chocolate? Ack!
If my faith is correct, this is just a test. I put my head down, fortify my soul with a good dose of prayer, and barrel on. On the other hand, if my faith is correct this could be a sign! And if I miss it I'm like the guy in the joke - the one where he's standing on his roof waiting for God to save him from a flood so he turns down an offer from a boat passing by, a helicopter rescue, and so on. When he gets to heaven he demands to know why God did not save him and God tells him -
'Wha'd you want me to do? I sent a boat, a helicopter, and you wouldn't allow yourself to be saved!' (In all my interpretations, God's a real comedian - I just have to believe that.)
What to think, what to do? Continue this life of mediocre 'success', building a little bit of goodness at a time, finding value and purpose in the few lives I touch, shrinking away from chances to do more on the possibility I might fail?
Or stop in my tracks? Find a need in the world and fill it? Really follow Jesus' path and risk every single thing in order to do some greater good? I'm chicken. I'm a total coward. I'm not sure I have the strength of character to do things like tell my kids we won't have gifts on holidays like these because we're off to Salvador to feed starving children and the real gifts for us are already here - good health, good humor, time together - so precious because we never really know when it all ends. But I'm chicken. And I like getting new slippers! Does that make me a total stinker?
I suppose it does when I know for sure that $48 could buy a desk for a child in an African school. I just saw that on the news last night.
So I'm literally lolling back and forth like a weeble wobble and I can't seem to reconcile and center myself.
But as I'm writing this I'm thinking that the whole thing is really much simpler than all this. A step back - maybe a few - and I can see that what Christmas offers me - what Jesus' life teaches me - is not the answer, but the possibility. And what I offer Christmas - what I offer God - is the genuine desire to take that chance to do more, be more, follow more closely in His steps down whatever path until I reach my rightful end - whatever that may be.
I may not get the whole thing figured out right now and that's o.k., because tomorrow I am reminded that the birth - the beginning - allows me a new beginning as well. And maybe each beginning brings me closer to the right place for me, the place where my abilities and my faith and my life all meet and matter.
So I stand on the precipice of this Christmas and I can't help feeling that my tumble forward is no accident, and not a pre-ordained step, but a choice. I choose this life and this path, flawed as it may be, with all my doubts and worries progressing along with me, firm in my belief that a faithful soul will find its way home, and so thankful for Christ's birth, because it offers me a chance, a hope for renewal and redemption and life beyond life.
Merry Christmas to you, and may God bless you and keep you always.