Saint Augustine – “In my deepest wound, I saw your glory and it dazzled me.”
Christmas is a time to be merry so people expect to feel cheerful during this season. Not only does the Church celebrate the birth of our Saviour with joy, even secular society promotes the idea that everybody is happy with images in the media of lighthearted people giving gifts and enjoying parties. In fact, there is so much pressure on people to be in good spirits during Christmas, many sink even deeper into depression when they are unable to force themselves to even crack a smile. Often, I also feel depleted and empty during the days leading up to Christmas, dismayed my emotions do not line up with my faith. The more I try to get in the Christmas spirit, the worse I feel.
God is God and I Am Not
You would think by now I would learn to simply wait for God to lift me up because, for decades, He has delighted in showing me who is really in charge. For example, one year a friend dropped by on Boxing Day to give me a tall stack of hand-knitted dishcloths. Sheer joy bubbled up instantly when I received this simple gift from a friend who was in pain herself. Foolishly, I had tried unsuccessfully to manufacture a good mood all day. God surprised me with a gift of joy which cannot be manufactured. Joy came to me when I allowed Christ to save me from my self-centeredness through the actions of a friend who was wounded herself. Father Henri Nouwen explains:
“real care means the willingness to help each other in making our brokenness into the gateway to joy.”
Walking in Darkness
Logically, I am often legitimately exhausted by Christmas morning but my own wounds seem even more apparent not only because I am tired but because I pray. His light reveals increasingly more of the darkness within me as I learn to live more in His Presence. I am only aware of the darkness when it is contrasted and revealed by the light of God.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
Upon those who lived in a land of gloom
a light has shone. Isaiah 9:1,2
As Christ himself said in the Gospels, only the sick need a doctor, only those who realize they are in the dark, seek for the light of salvation. The Pharisees thought they were fine, perfect, holy even–and so they did not need a saviour; they did not need Jesus. Over and over again, I am reminded how to accept my brokenness rather than fight it. Only then can I discover the glory of Christ’s power in me. When we touch our deepest wound and stand in prayer, vulnerable but waiting expectantly, then we have the ability to receive from God.
Touch Our Deepest Wound
I understand the need to stand with empty hands before God because when I am weak and open, I have the humility to receive from God as well as from others in the Christian community. As a mother of nine children, living with little disposable income, Christmas was always a challenge. Our parish priest and school insisted on showering us with a Christmas hamper and gifts every year. Of course, I wanted to protest every year because many of the farming families in our parish and school were not well off. Yet, I knew they needed to give. It meant I had to let go of my images as a strong, spiritual mother and allow others to serve us:
Indeed the main spiritual question is not, “What difference do you make?” but “What do you have in common?” It is not “excelling” but “serving” that makes us most human. It is not proving ourselves to be better than others but confessing to be just like others that is the way to healing and reconciliation.
I saw quite clearly that those who gave to us were delighted and blessed by giving and it fills me with His joy.
“In our own woundedness, we can become sources of life for others.” Henri J.M. Nouwen
Copyright 2016 Melanie Jean Juneau