“No more lives torn apart
And wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
Everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
This is grown-up Christmas list…”
David Foster(music) and Linda Thompson-Jenner (lyrics)
In addition to “Momma’s Christmas Shoes”, “Grown-Up Christmas List” ranks in my top 5 Christmas favorites. As we get older, we learn that life really consists of all the items money cannot buy – happiness, love, peace…
A few days ago, I began carrying out more loads of trash and giveaways. I sifted through drawers and containers. The more I sifted, the angrier I grew. How could I have lived like this? How could I have allowed so much to accumulate? How could I have been so ungrateful? And I had the nerve to continue praying for more. I do not even have enough room to store the stuff that already has to go. Why did I keep buying? Why did no one tell me? Why did no one make me see? The excessiveness of everything disgusted me.
And as I went on and on with the conversation I believed I was having with myself, I heard that familiar, still, small voice interrupt with two words, “forgive yourself.”
I almost stopped in my tracks.
The voice went on. “Forgive yourself. You didn’t know better.”
I immediately calmed down. A sense of peace replaced my self-lecture.
Those two words have haunted me ever since. “Forgive yourself.”
…I have been teaching for 5 years, and December always bring the End-of-Course Exams, good old state testing. I, of course, freaked out as I recognized that I had not done enough to prepare the students. I did not review enough. I did not circulate around the room enough to ensure they understood the material. I did not give enough small group instruction.
I wanted to make a formal apology. I wanted to tell the students that I was sorry I had not been enough. I was sorry I had not done enough. I was sorry I had gotten so caught up in my own journey and detoxing from the the teacher life that consumed every part of me over the past four years that I had nothing left to give them but a shallow version of my old self. And then the familiar voice spoke again, “Forgive yourself.”
You did the best you could.
And voice of Amy Grant or Kelly Clarkson or Monica (I love ALL the versions) reminded me that many of us are out here trying to accomplish the same goal – to make the world a better place. We are all just kids trapped in adulthood with Christmas lists consisting of “world peace,” an “end to poverty and hunger,” and “endless love.”
Sometimes you mess up…forgive yourself
Sometimes you tear lives apart…forgive yourself
Sometimes you start and stir up wars…forgive yourself
Sometimes your heartache is self-inflicted…forgive yourself
Sometimes you are a terrible friend…forgive yourself
Sometimes you ignore what is right and do whatever you feel like doing…forgive yourself
Sometimes you would rather stay angry and bitter than to love…forgive yourself
You are only human.
My students drew me pictures, wrote me notes, and put together collages. Some gave gifts, which I love. But I take just as much joy in their kind words and gestures. They reminded me that even my shallow version is more than enough – that I am ordinarily extraordinary.
“We talk like we know what’s going on, but we don’t. We don’t have any idea. Look…we’re gonna screw up a lot! You know, we’re going to keep changing our minds and … sometimes even our hearts. And through all of that, the only real thing we can offer each other is forgiveness… Don’t let yourself get so angry that you stop loving because one day you wake up from that anger and the person you love will be gone” ~ Joey (a.k.a. Katie Holmes) via Kevin Williamson Dawson’s Creek Season 3
For this holiday season, God gifted me two words that I will now gift to you: forgive yourself. Forgive yourself so that you can love yourself. You just may be the answer to someone else’s Christmas list.