Sunday, December 1, 2013

Lonely During the Holidays

Over Thanksgiving break, I read a post by my friend Julie that really impacted me. Currently single, she wrote about how the holiday season can be a time of increased loneliness for her but also for others, in various life stages. Whether you'd classify yourself as someone who feels lonely during the holidays or someone who lives in the throes of fulfilled euphoria, read her thoughts on the whole shebang from a Christian perspective: 

Holiday Fears

Holiday cheers are upon us! Starbucks Christmas cups, affections for Ralphie, and the Home Alone theme song all collide in a rather gushy way for me. But with all the carols and cheers come holiday fears for many people, some years for me as well. For many there are fears of facing family, fears of going it alone, fears of being the only one who hasn’t reached the height of human happiness in a sea of blissful carolers. I don’t know why it hits folks harder in the holidays, but many feel a surge of loneliness in the middle of all the family-filled holiday cheer. Obviously the answer isn’t for couples to stop instagramming the adorable photos where they’re sporting matching chic scarves, but there are ways we can be intentional about community and authenticity that might make the holiday season a little more bearable for those who experience the ought-to-be joyful times with guilt-ridden dread.
One place to start is with honesty that we haven’t all reached the pinnacle of human happiness. Christians often present the appearance of perfection, and this seems heightened during the holidays. There is the indescribably joy of remembering Christ’s birth, and that joy pulses through most of us to a greater degree throughout the season of Advent. But the joy that burst through with the birth of our Savior doesn’t eliminate the grief we still experience in a fractured world; it offers hope in the midst of the grief. If we’re honest about the grief, about the loneliness, about the longing, about the broken families that we wish so desperately were whole, then we’re actually putting hope on blast even more than we do when we act like there’s no need for a Savior. We don’t have to give the illusion of perfection in order to demonstrate the joy of Christ, as the former kind of removes the need for the latter. We’re not perfect. Our families aren’t perfect. That’s why the Gospel message is so beautiful. And if we’re honest about some of the ways we experience difficulties then we immediately make life more bearable for those in despair.
ImageWith that said, many of us have a lot of love to give. We can be a tremendous gift to others by inviting them into our space in this season. A lot of folks don’t have a home to return to; they don’t have a family to share “I’m thankful for _______” sentiments with around a table. I hope we, as the Body of Christ, will bring them around the table and offer them a glimpse into the imperfect-yet-flourishing hope we’re living into. Hope doesn’t come in the form of a card or a profound idea; hope comes in the form of people. It came to the earth in the person of Jesus Christ and now it flows through us as a community who embodies His Spirit. How can we offer this hope to people from a pulpit if we don’t offer the hope with ourselves? I’m floored by the number of Christians I hear from who are living like this—looking out for others like this—and I pray more will catch the vision of an outward focused existence.
If you’re one who’s experiencing the reality of loneliness or pain during this season, I hope you’ll invite some trusted people into that space with you. You’re not alone. The more you begin to share the struggles, the more you’ll hear “Oh my gosh, you TOO?” and the more you’ll believe you belong. You’ll also give those who are looking for ways to share themselves with others an opportunity to go deeper with you than they’re able to otherwise go. If you feel lonely, allow yourself to be brought in the fold in ways that lessen the loneliness—the gift goes both ways and you’ll be a blessing to them. The Church is packed with potential to be an abundant blessing to one another in every season of life. We just need to be intentional, committed to keeping it real and sharing the slowly-transforming beauty of it all with one another.
What would it look like for you to be more honest about your own "imperfection"-- loneliness, longing, brokenness-- this holiday season? What would it look like for you to reach out and share yourself with someone else (who might be feeling the same way)? 

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