Please feel free to sing along to my version of “Oh Christmas Tree”
- Oh Christmas time, oh Christmas time, how lovely through the years
- Oh Christmas time, oh Christmas time, why then all the tears
- Each year expectations are so high, when they go unmet we often cry
- Oh Christmas time, oh Christmas time, the card is maxed I fear
- Oh New Years time, oh New Years time, we promise to start anew
- Oh New Years time, oh New Years time, but our plans do go askew
- Our expectations are so high, but the bathroom scale does not lie
- Oh New Years time, oh New Years time, I think I’ll hide the mirrors
- Each year we feel the need to vent, about our winters of discontent
- Oh Christmas time, oh Christmas time I’ll give you my two-cents
Oh how we set ourselves up for discontentment with our high expectations.
After Thanksgiving I love listening to Christmas songs on the radio. Mostly because of how they make me feel. Because it rarely snows on Christmas in the Pacific Northwest, listening to people sing about a winter wonderland, talking snowmen, overachieving reindeer and a partridge in a pear tree (things I would never think about any other time of year) causes a wave of nostalgia to wash over me.
Just this past fall, I was already looking forward to Christmas. My son Michael, his wife Signe, and their two small children were coming home for Christmas (Christmas day evening to be exact). They live in Chandler, Arizona and make it home for Christmas every other year. Also coming home from Florida, the Wednesday after Christmas, was my oldest daughter Katie and her youngest out of five children.
Needless to say, both Karen and I were very excited to have all our children and six out of 10 grandchildren home for the holidays. Four or five years had passed since the last time our three children were under one roof together celebrating Christmas. It would be a time stay up late reminiscing about Christmas’s past.
But then came the winter of my contentment. One by one, a series of trials and afflictions met me head on. It all started on September 25th with me having a mini-stroke, losing my job for a year because of my stroke, having two heart surgeries and a third surgery resulting from an accidental puncturing of an artery which led to a hematoma in my right hand and forearm. (For the whole story of this Job-like experience, see my last article) http://desiretoinspire.life/dear-job-we-have-a-few-things-in-common-suffering/
So for the first four days Michael and his family are home, I’m sleeping twelve to sixteen hours a day. When I was awake I felt ten seconds behind every conversation with all the pain pills I was taking. Because my arm was sliced open like a carved turkey, I couldn’t pick up and hold two-year-old Esther. That broke my heart. Michael did put 3 month old Daniel on my lap. I didn’t hold him for long though. He not only is a cute, butterball of love but he’s built like a Butterball turkey and I was scared to death I’d drop him.
Karen and Michael would take Esther for walks to look at the neighborhood cow and horse while I slept on the couch. While the rest of the family had the kind of in-depth conversations I enjoy, I would fall asleep on the couch. I love to take pictures but I couldn’t hold onto the camera.
I was beginning to feel depressed even though the thing I wanted most this holiday (my three children all home together for Christmas) had come true.
Our family loves to play games. I was not about to miss out on that time together. One night five of us were playing Settlers of Catan…a game where you need to think and communicate well. I’m a pretty competitive guy and my daughter Jaymi is the undisputed champion of this game. I started fast and thought for sure, despite having a distinct disadvantage of being under the influence of a drug induced coma, I was going to win. But in the end I messed up by making a few mistakes with strategy and not only didn’t win but came in tied for last.
I blamed the loss on being high on drugs and told my son-in-law Matt that the winner had to put the game away. I walked into the living room, sunk into my couch and sulked. My Christmas wasn’t supposed to go down this way. I desired to squeeze out and drink up every ounce of family time I could. Instead the drugs and fatigue were draining every ounce of energy I had.
I felt cheated. The best conversation I had with Michael came on the eighty-minute drive back to Sea-Tac airport. My head was finally clear. I had quit taking the pain pills the day before, not because I didn’t need them, but because I was so constipated. If anyone poked my belly button I would explode.
After saying good-by to Michael and his family, Karen got behind the wheel for the long drive home. As we pulled away from the airport, I began to cry; partly from the pangs of constipation but mostly because of unmet expectations. Karen said that Michael understood my situation and reminded me that we still had Katie and our granddaughter Hannah home for another few days. I still had time to enjoy them while they were home.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Don’t feel too bad though. Even the wisest and maybe wealthiest man to have ever lived struggled with feelings of discontentment.
Solomon was King David’s son from Bathsheba. When he became king of the nation of Israel, God found favor with Solomon because of the king’s love for him. God told Solomon, “…Ask for whatever you want me to give to you.” 1 Kings 3:5
Solomon humbly asked for, “…a discerning heart to govern your (God’s) people and to distinguish between right and wrong.” 1 Kings 3:9
God was so pleased with Solomon’s request that he gave him the things (wealth and a long life) he did not ask for along with wisdom. Solomon’s life was filled with many great accomplishments:
- “It was during his reign that the kingdom gained its highest splendor. Solomon was renowned throughout the ancient world of his time for his wisdom, his wealth and his extensive political and commercial alliances with the nations in the region. It was he who built the First Temple of Jerusalem, thus establishing the city not only as the political capital of the kingdom but also as the religious center of the People of Israel.” Excerpt taken from http://www.kingsolomonlegend.com/King-Solomon-Great-Construction-Achievements.html
- “The royal palace of Solomon took twice as long to build as the Temple, and was much more complicated. In fact, it was a whole complex of buildings, with many different functions. According to the Bible, our only source of information, there was:
- the cedar-pillared House of the Forest of Lebanon, perhaps an audience hall
- a treasury or strongroom
- the Judgement Hall where Solomon’s magnificent ivory throne stood
- a special palace for the daughter of Pharaoh, Solomon’s most high-born wife
- living quarters for Solomon’s multitude of wives and children. Though the ‘thousand wives of Solomon’ is probably an exaggeration, there were certainly many of them. Solomon cemented alliances with neighboring territories by marrying their rulers’ daughters, and by giving his own daughters in marriage to governors of provinces.” Excerpt taken from http://www.womeninthebible.net/bible-archaeology/solomons-palace/
- Finally in Solomon lists all the ways in which he strove to find fulfillment in his life. In Ecclesiastes 2 he says, “…I tried to find fulfillment by inaugurating a great public works program…next I bought slaves, both men and women…I also bred great herds and flocks…I collected silver and gold as taxes from many kings and provinces…In the cultural arts, I organized men’s and women’s choirs and orchestras…and then there were the many beautiful concubines…Anything I wanted, I took, and did not restrain myself from any joy….But as I looked at everything I had tried, it was all so useless, a chasing of the wind and there was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.”
In his youth Solomon loved God. But throughout his rule as King, he began to turn his focus on other things. At the time of writing Ecclesiastes, he is an older man reflecting back on his life with what I believe is regret. During his reign, Solomon constantly strived in vein for what would make him happy. Instead of happiness he found discontentment. So what was missing?
He soon forgot to look up to heaven to rediscover his true joy. In the conclusion to his book he acknowledges the folly of his ways. In chapter 12 of Ecclesiastes he states the following:
“Don’t let the excitement of being young cause you to forget about your Creator. Honor him in your youth before the evil years come – when you’ll no longer enjoy living….Here is my final conclusion: fear God and obey his commandments, for this is the entire duty of man.”
Wait a minute! I’ve heard that God = Love. How do we reconcile the phrase ‘fear God’ into the equation?
While at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, I have no fear toward any of the animals while enjoying them from the safety of the walking trail. I will wet my pants if I ever find myself in the same cage as a tiger. I know what they are capable of, especially if hungry or provoked.
Most of the world doesn’t fear God because they either view Him from afar or don’t consider Him at all. Christians who understand the nature of God fear (respect, have reverence for) Him because that fear helps to prevent us from giving in to our sinful desires.
Now a tiger can no more love me than share a steak dinner with me. Actually, I am the steak dinner. God, on the other hand, loves us so much that, “… he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
This past Monday I was having another pity party. My hand hurt, my arm full of stitches was itching like crazy, I felt 100 years old just walking up our stairs, and we received a letter from the insurance company questioning one of the surgical procedures. Then my daughter Jaymi called and wondered if Karen and I wanted to go for a walk out at her house on Camano Island. We did go even though I wasn’t convinced I was up to it. I can’t tell you the joy I felt just being around my daughter and her three kids. When we left their home I felt 100% better.
Was it just being around my family which made all the difference? Maybe some but not all of it. It was what I did on the way to their house which paved the way for an attitude adjustment. I prayed that God would help me change my perspective on today’s circumstances. I thanked God for my family and thanked him that I was well enough to enjoy this day with them. That was it but it changed everything.
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.”