Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Tension of Creation

On Christmas morning, the world was white. Gentle, fat flakes were falling. The kids screeched with delight. I'd never seen that before on Christmas; snow like the movies.

The past two weeks have been something out of the ordinary. There was the Sandy Hook shooting, miraculously then punctuated by amazing acts of kindness all over. Someone bought kids at Anna's school hot chocolate. I felt first-hand the infusion of joy that comes when you decide to give something to someone least expecting it -- and to give and to love, rather than sit and dwell on evil.

Then my mom ended up in the hospital, and no one knew what was wrong. Her symptoms weren't clear-cut and were baffling to doctors. They could have indicated something very seriously (and yes, terminally) wrong...yet she had to sit in a hospital close to Christmas all weekend, waiting and wondering.

Through all of this, as I always do, I thought.

When I was a kid, after awhile, I had this idea. I had this idea that everyone else was having a Christmas like a sitcom, like a commercial. Someone somewhere was having a perfect Christmas, but at our house, there was feeling less than relatives who had more money, or feeling odd because we had a family member who could care less about Christmas ("Andy! Come back here!" was often a call at our house, while everyone else was joyfully ripping paper. And someone would almost inevitably say to just let him go. This seemed wrong).

And so, thanks to that and very many other things, I grew up thinking there was something fundamentally wrong with me, with us. The Disney commercials told me. There they were! These families with kids excitedly jumping up and down, getting surprised with a vacation on Christmas morning.

Has anyone ever noticed that we live in a world where everyone is trying to create magic? For the longest time I thought it was because everyone else really had it wonderfully.

The scales came off my eyes, ever so slowly. The process began when I worked for the Children's Hospital. There were the stories I covered: on the boy who had a part of his brain removed due to epilepsy; the pre-teen who'd had the stroke; the twins born too early -- the one who didn't make it. These people from all walks of life had experienced heartache, yet they didn't see that as any sort of condemnation of who they were.

I don't know, but I think they still felt loved.

When Ethan was smaller, all of my thoughts of Disney and perfect families came rushing back. Little kids were supposed to be excited about the gifts under the tree and playing with new toys. They weren't supposed to rip open one present, throw it down on the floor, and then want to hide off in the other room, overwhelmed.

Over time, I've seen more than ever that there are many things in this world that are not supposed to be, but are.

Little children are not supposed to die in their first grade classroom.

People are not supposed to be in the hospital, hurt and hurting, and especially at Christmas.

Families are not supposed to be split apart by rifts that last years and result in nothing but silence and cold.

Like the 26 acts of kindness created in honor of Newtown, like the movies that make the snow fall on Christmas Eve as friends connect and families embrace, we attempt to create magic not to reflect the way everything is perfect but because everything is so very broken.

Everything will always be at least a little bit broken, in this world, I am convinced.

Sometimes broken is the best way to be. That's when God can work.

Last week a young man with Asperger's spoke at an autism group I attend. He said something about the way people with Asperger's sometimes have trouble relating to others because of the intensity of their emotions. And while it wasn't quite in the context of the story he was explaining, I suddenly saw myself. I saw that little bit of autism that I think resides in some of us, the way I respond to things and feel things, the way I think and perceive and analyze, the way other people sometimes just don't get me. They want to go shopping and I want to decipher the deep meanings of the universe.

I don't know what was different this time, but it was. Different, even broken, was really, truly okay. Not because I never need to change or work on anything, but because I am still loved right where I am in the present moment.

And I saw that I know that if I am okay, if I know I am loved...then it's okay, on Christmas morning to let Ethan open his gifts and then run straight to the computer game he's been playing for several days, because that's his routine. He can be who he is.

If I know I am loved, I can accept me in all my intensity, for who I was made to be. I can love other personalities for who they are. I can choose to forgive those who have mistakenly or intentionally hurt me or my family. It's not about me, or us.

On Christmas Eve, my dad called to say my mom was going to be okay. They had answers, they had a plan of treatment.

We will never have all the answers. But when I looked out at the snow on Christmas morning, I knew that we can be broken and still made new. We can be broken and still be beautiful. It starts with love. And when we accept what was freely given, we are free to extend that to others. When we forgive, both ourselves and others, we are freed and free to see something amazing at work that we never otherwise would have noticed.

Sometime the funny places we hear you
Droning in the middle of the broken
Sometimes the funny places we hear you
In imperfect world

You're funny
You're funny like that
You will not be controlled

You live in the tension
You live in the tension
You live in the tension
of creation

You decide what's beautiful
You decide
You decide what's glorious

-- "You Decide What's Beautiful," Jason Upton

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