Surely, you didn’t think I’d actually pass up the opportunity to be philosophical on Christmas Day?
I’m sure some of my more secular readers will wince a little, but, well, it’s the celebration of the birth of Jesus and light into the world, so… So, I think about God and the nature of the universe on religious holidays like this. And, as commercial a holiday as this has become, it is still a religious holiday. At church last night they told us about how God loved the world so much that He gave us His son, who was destined to die for our sins, that we might be forgiven and find redemption. I’ll tell you true, sin I understand all too well. The other stuff, though, well, I struggle with it. It’s not that I came from a bad home or a rough neighborhood or anything like that. In fact, quite the opposite is true. I have a good, relatively tight-knit family and I grew up in a relatively affluent neighborhood. But, somewhere between junior high and my divorce I found more than my fair share of sin. I found it in spite of knowing better. I found it because I went looking for it, to see what I was missing, I guess.
I guess I found more than my fair share of redemption, too. It’s a strange thing, really, since I mostly did what I could to hide from it. But, then, God’s plan for all that, sin and redemption both, is a mystery to me. That mystery is what I’ve been thinking about today. I’ve been thinking about it a lot the past week, really, as we got closer to Christmas. God’s plan baffles me. I suppose it should, really. Who can know the mind of God?
I envy people who think they know God’s will for them. I envy those proud souls who think they know what the Scriptures all mean and how to sort everyone and what we should all do. I wish I had that kind of knowledge, that kind of confidence. Me, well, I’m not so sure. God surprises me still. Ha! God surprises me constantly!
But, I know people who believe they know God’s will. Hell, I have friends who believe they know God’s will, or at least some part of it. When I express a certain amount of despair over my ignorance, my sense of being lost in the wake of that. I struggle with seeking His will for me. I struggle to know if it’s His will or my own that I hear when I seek for what to do. There are times when I feel like God is telling me to do somethings that I don’t want to do. You see, that’s why I have a hard time believing those people who claim to know God’s will. He never seems to tell them to do things that are difficult. Have you noticed that?
It’s only in the Bible that people are told to do the difficult things. I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone who claims to know God’s will that thinks He’s telling them to do something that they’d rather not. But, you see, that’s my problem. I think God is telling me something. Something I’d rather not be true. I think He’s telling me that I’m meant to be alone. No kids, no wife. Alone. I have friends that disagree, but there are signs and portents. Moving half-way across the country to marry someone only to have that relationship end in divorce and her leaving the state seems a fairly clear sign to me that marriage is not in the cards. Oh, sure, perhaps that means I’m not meant for her, but maybe for someone else. Sure, sure. Except the last person I was dating has left the state, too. I mean, those two things sure seem to point toward me being alone. But, then, I have a friend who tells me that he sees me with someone. Who, he cannot say, but someone. Of course, he sees me as a father, too, but it seems to have been in God’s plan to sterilize me when I took chemotherapy. I’m willing to accept that it was in His plan to keep me alive, but it’s hard to see how I might still have all that other stuff after cheating death, too. I know there’s a lesson there, somewhere, because I do believe that God teaches me through these things, these trials, these conflicts. I have to believe that, or what would be the point?
But, God does surprise me.
Yesterday, I was prepared for a lonely, morose day today, filled with time and distractions from the emptiness. That’s not how today went at all. I was reminded by many friends today that I am far from alone. I may not have that one special, intimate relationship that I so crave, but I am certainly not alone. I was surprised by calls and text messages from friends new and old. And, don’t misunderstand me, there were plenty of people I expected to talk to or hear from today, but some of them took me quite by surprise indeed.
I also had a surprising amount of laughter and joy today.
Perhaps it sounds corny, or quaint, or, perhaps, even a little naive, but I felt something. Call it the presence of God. Call it peace on Earth. Call it what you will, I felt it today. Maybe it was even a bit of that redemption they keep promising in church. Just a hope that maybe my worst fears are wrong. It was no burning bush, but maybe just a hint that my future is filled with possibilities that I cannot know. Just the hope that God has a few surprises for me still.
And, that, dear readers, is what Christmas is about for me, at the best of times. That sense of hope, of second chances, of rebirth, of light that has not yet been overcome by darkness.
Life is full of surprises and God’s plan, seen only, perhaps, in the rear-view mirror, is just one of them, for me.
He surprised me, again, this year. I hope that He will continue to surprise me with the rebirth of light through the rest of this religious year. I hope that you, too, my friends, will have that same experience.