Sometimes blessings make me nervous – especially around the holidays. This may seem counterintuitive, possibly even wrong, but it’s true. I think it all started with our first year of marriage, which was the most happy and most frantic year of my life. Ivan was in grad school and working several part-time music jobs; I was in grad school, and working full-time as a secretary and part-time as a violinist. But we were overjoyed to be married and dashed through our first ten months like they were one long adventure, even if nights at home were more often a wish than a reality. Making ends meet was the only bump – until November. Our gigging schedules bulged with weddings, corporate dinners, and even a few early Christmas parties. How did so many people get our contact info over the past year? My heart swelled with comfort and joy at the thought of saving just the tiniest bit toward a house of our own, even while trying to silence a sinister suggestion: “Unless you need it for an emergency!” Where did that come from? We were young, our first anniversary was barely a month away – wasn’t God just rewarding a year of hard work? There were plenty of Proverbs about that, right?
Obviously we needed it for an emergency. But the first half of me was also right, albeit much later: Ivan has worked incredibly hard to provide for both of us (especially now that we live in the Silicon Valley!), and God has blessed his efforts every step of the way. But there’s something about the holidays – and thus our anniversary – that seems to invite extra trials. The December after our accident, I was hospitalized for six days due to uncontrolled seizures. I think God knew we needed that third December to be normal – a greater relief than I can express – because the following January marked the beginning of my generalized seizures and months at the Stanford clinic. As for last December, well, I think Ivan’s fall speaks for itself.
And so we arrive at this holiday season, which is the fourth since my accident as well as our fifth anniversary. I’m vacillating between extreme excitement for our anniversary (after all, five is a big number), and extreme worry that something else will go wrong.
Why am I divulging my inner turmoil? Because I think 2020 has ingrained this anxiety in most of us, to some degree or another. Whether it’s the pandemic, social unrest, election results – or all of the above – the temptation to wake up thinking “What now?” or “What next?” or “What if?” increases every day. It’s so easy to make Thanksgiving and Christmas gestures instead of worship when things aren’t going our way. Are we really thanking God for the blessings He’s bestowed on us in the past year? (They’re there!) Are we really getting ready to celebrate the coming of a Savior who will restore peace on earth? I’m writing this blog post to myself probably more than I’m writing to anyone else.
Hebrews 12:2 says it best: “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”
May we fix our eyes on the One we’ll be thanking and praising this holiday season!