Oh boy. The music is on the radio. The family schedules are being planned. The specials are on TV (seriously, did anyone else notice that the SNL Christmas Special aired Wednesday? On November 28th?). This all adds up to one thing…
Christmas is here!
Every year, people around the world wait in line for hours for $1.50 off a neck tie, stretch their credit limits buying gifts, and eat themselves sick with treats and egg nog. This adds up to enough mental stress to literally hear those “sweet silver bells” in your ears throughout the night. The holiday buffet is notorious for ruining healthy eating habits the world over. And this year, the season lasts even longer due to Thanksgiving being about as early as it can be.
And yet…Christmas is special. This time of year is different than any other, and it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside every time the calendar turns to December. Why is that?
This year I am truly realizing how much joy and love were wrapped up in that precious gift about 2,012 years ago. Some things that have come to my mind this week:
– God created all of us for a relationship with Him. He loved us and wanted a loving relationship with us, but we constantly turned away and chased after our own invented desires, creating a roller coaster of ignoring Him or demanding miracles from Him for centuries. Could I put up with that behavior in the relationships in my life?
– Instead of giving up on His creation, He decided to love us even more. He gave his one and only son and sent him to Earth to save the very people who were ignoring and mocking Him. Think about that. Have I ever even heard of an unconditional love like this?
– The King of the World should have announced his arrival with trumpets, lightning, earthquakes, and booming voices. There should have been shiny gifts and angels presenting Him from heaven. Instead, He was born to a virgin teenager and her nervous fiance in a dirty barn with a bunch of smelly animals. This was the gift to save the human race, and they didn’t even get invited into a house. Hollywood couldn’t even write this story. If I was a king, would I have entered like this? Is that fair?
So instead of stressing about what to buy your nephew or how many cookies you need to bake for your party, take a second for a deep breath. Think about that gift we all were given. Isn’t that incredible?! That’s an amount of love that is hard to imagine. And it’s meant for you. And your family and friends. So before you get stressed or frustrated about gifts or diets this season, think of that gift of love.
No wonder this time of year is different. No wonder there is so much joy and love in houses all over the world during this season. There is a reason for that. And that reason is Jesus. God sent Him to save an unworthy people, and we were given the gift of love and forgiveness and eternal life. Rejoice! Celebrate! Be happy during this time of year, because it is truly the best gift ever given! And make sure to say a prayer of thanks before pouring another cup of egg nog.
Isn’t it the best feeling when you get a great deal? When your plan falls perfectly into place and you get that dumb grin on your face? I love that. But what about when the opposite happens?
I drive an ’05 Jeep Wrangler, and I’m the third owner. I love taking the top down in the summer and it’s great for drive-in movie theaters. However, Wranglers don’t have all the modern electronics of most cars on the road today. With all of their removable tops, doors, and windshields, it wouldn’t make sense to put a bunch of expensive electronics on the inside. I realized this when I bought it, but as it gets colder here in Iowa, I want to know what the outside temperature is. I also would like to know which direction I’m going as I drive, because I’ve always been a little directionally challenged. Just last month, I started a journey to Iowa City (2 hours directly east of my house) by driving north on Interstate 35 for 20 miles before realizing my mistake. Brilliant. And my buddy riding shotgun was none too thrilled about getting to Iowa City 45 minutes later than expected.
This past Monday, I found the solution to both of these problems at the only place that could have such a magical cure: Wal-Mart. I located a “3-in-1”, battery-operated, self-mounting device that simultaneously told you the direction you were driving, the temperature outside your car, and the time. All I had to do was activate the sticky tape on the bottom and stick it on my dash. Incredible, right? After the initial shock of this amazing find wore off, I composed myself long enough to purchase it for $3.89.
The perfect deal! I’d found it in my first attempt! This solved all my problems, and for less than $5. Y-E-S.
It was only 3 minutes after this moment of ecstasy that I learned the sad truth. My “guaranteed accurate” thermometer gave me a reading of 95 degrees, which is strange mid-October weather in Iowa. (This never changed once throughout the day, despite the temperature dropping from mid-60’s to high 40’s.) And my trusty compass assured me I was traveling north as I drove home, even as I was driving straight east for miles. Ugh. I had gotten screwed. And do you know why?
I was so eager to fix my problem, I was willing to accept any solution. I didn’t even look at any other stores or check out Google for other options. I don’t even remember looking around the aisle at Wal-Mart for other choices. All I could think about was solving my problem, completely, right now. So I bought a poorly made tool that did exactly nothing of what it promised. In fact, I didn’t even check to see if it worked before dedicating 2 minutes of my life smashing it into my dash with my entire body weight. Smooth move, Thomas.
After spending a good chunk of time removing the boneheaded purchase (and its stinky gunk) from my dash 2 days later, I realized this wasn’t the first time I had made a hasty decision or purchase. I do it all the time. A cheap thermometer/compass tool isn’t a big deal, but it shines as an example of my thought process as I make decisions, both big and small.
If I would have simply waited 15 minutes until I got back home, I could have Googled a solution with high reviews from other drivers. I could have checked prices at Wal-Mart, Target, AutoZone, and more. This would have saved me $3.89, 2 days of buyer’s remorse, and it would have actually solved my problem (which is still unsolved). All I had to do was be a little more patient.
Do you find that you struggle with this as well? Are there other areas of your life that you switch plans and make choices due to a lack of patience? I rush to find the newest workout plan that offers “guaranteed results” and “massive triceps in 3 days or less”. These change every week, so my workout regimen does too. I read half an article about yogurt’s dietary powers on the Internet and all of a sudden I’m shoveling Yoplait in my mouth at every meal. I see clients meeting with my mom (a registered dietician) and filling her in on this new diet they’re trying that “works better than anything I’ve ever tried!” They are usually off of that diet within 2 weeks and moving to the next one they swear is even better. What’s the deal?
This isn’t just fitness, either. If I do the same boring thing at work for a week straight, I start looking around at what other people are doing in their jobs and thinking about how much fun that would be. I often look at my savings account and decide it’s growing far too slowly, so I begin brainstorming additional ways to make money. When driving to Ames from Des Moines, I try a different route each time because I just know I can shave 3 minutes off my travel time if I go up the “back route”. What’s the deal?
Patience comes down to trust. If you trust that something good is going to happen, then you have a great reason to be patient. But when you lose trust and you no longer believe that waiting is worth it, then why would you be patient? You wouldn’t. Trust is essential to patience. I need to trust in my workout plan to achieve my results. I need to trust that slowly saving my money is a responsible way to build up my savings for later. And I should have trusted in the opinions of other drivers before spending actual money on my Wal-Mart debacle.
In my life, I have recently been putting a lot of my trust in God. I realize people might be at different points in a relationship with God, but I just wanted to share something that works for me. God says through the Bible that He has our best intentions in mind, and why wouldn’t He? He created us. All too often, I try to take things into my own hands (my Wal-Mart purchase, my new diet, my get-rich-quick schemes), and every single one of those plans fail. And they fail hard, right on their face. It has been very helpful for me to slow down and trust in God’s plan, not my own. But I still struggle with it every day, because I’m so used to this culture of impatience and trying every new thing on my own.
Trusting in His plan gives me more patience than I could ever have on my own, because I know His plan is simply better than mine. It also helps my mind to relax and become free, because the pressure is off. God has it all under control, and that is a freeing thought! I can stop scheming, planning, and worrying. That greatly improves my mental health and reduces my stress level. All I have to do is trust. And be patient.
I’m a work in progress. I’m one half-bent piece of a 1,000 piece puzzle, but with patience and trust I’m confident I can continue to make progress. My body can get healthier, and my mind can become healthier through freedom of stress. Patience is a pretty powerful tool. Way better than anything you can buy for $3.89 at Wal-Mart…trust me.
What do you think? What are you impatient with in your life? What creates that “rushed” feeling inside of you? How do you deal with trusting in your future plans? Let’s talk about it as a community! Leave some comments and join the discussion.