by Barbie Perks
At this time of the year, no matter how old we are, or how far away we are (physically, spiritually, mentally or emotionally) our thoughts tend to turn towards home. 2020 is no different, even with the pandemic raging across the world. We long to be with our loved ones. We long to share the traditional celebrations we have grown up with, or that we have instituted along the way, as Christmas has become more meaningful to us.
There are many strings pulling my heart homeward this year and yet I have to cut them loose.
Last week’s FreerangeFriday: Prepare the Way of the Lord was a timely intervention for me. I have used it personally and with our Bible study group; I have my ‘wilderness’ tray in my dining room; I have the tea light candles and matches close by. The first time I lit the candles was at 5am one morning, sitting and praying for God to shine light in the darkness that was threatening to overtake me (anxiety, worry, and helplessness can lead to very dark places in my imagination!) As I relaxed and calmed down, I began to notice that dawn was breaking – the darkness outside the window was being replaced by light. It was a powerful picture to me, that God always hears our cries, and responds in ways we can understand. The Light motif for this season of advent is so appropriate!
One of the ‘rocks’ I am choosing to hand over is accepting that I won’t be going home for Christmas. There are many reasons for this decision, and I’ve begun to feel at peace about it.
Another rock is called home. This year I have lived in five different places, and the security of a place to call home has been shattered. I have managed to make a home in each place (at least I haven’t had to start from scratch this year!), but the temporary nature of it does take its toll in terms of trust and security. I have also been more homesick for my original home, and more heartsick, longing to talk with my mother who passed away 4 years ago. I have been encouraged by thinking about the young Mary, who moved from her parents’ home to Joseph’s home, then packed up to go to Bethlehem where she gave birth in a stable (homeless!). They stayed in Bethlehem (Joseph might have found work there) until the Magi came to visit, and then they were on the road again, this time to Egypt – as refugees, running for the life of the precious baby Jesus.
I am choosing to put Proverbs 4:23-27 (Passion translation) into practice in a very intentional way:
So above all, guard the affections of your heart,
for they affect all that you are.
Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being,
for from there flows the wellspring of life.
Avoid dishonest speech and pretentious words.
Be free from using perverse words no matter what!
Set your gaze on the path before you.
With fixed purpose, looking straight ahead, ignore life’s distractions.
Watch where you’re going!
Stick to the path of truth, and the road will be safe and smooth before you.
Don’t allow yourself to be side-tracked for even a moment
or take the detour that leads to darkness.
I am identifying the affections of my heart, and noticing how they affect my thinking. I know that if I regress into nostalgia and “if only’s”, depression is only a short step away. And you know, pretending everything is OK is really not helpful at all. Close friends can help to share the burdens, the pain, the disappointments, the grief. Prayer is a powerful tool in the hands of caring friends. I am deciding to embrace this journey that we are on, growing in ways we never dreamed of.
May you choose the Light for your path today. May the rocks you are stumbling against cause you to reach out for help, and to lean towards and on Christ.
Chips Ingram’s talks at https://www.bible.org.za/art-of-survival/ are a helpful resource at this time.