Hello. My name is Becca and sometimes I awful. Seriously, sometimes I am just awful. Example: when I am very hungry, tired, or stressed I will be incredibly rude to anyone who gets in the way of me attempting to fix any of the aforementioned issues. “But, Becca,” I imagine you saying in your nicest, most compassionate voice, “Most people get like that when they are hungry, tired, or stressed.” Sure, sure. But the problem is I’m like that a lot in my head. I am super grateful that people don’t hear the 10 seconds after I hang up the phone with them most days. And I am even worse when I’m just thinking it. I’ve made many a person cry because of my sharp tongue and biting criticism. Honestly, most of the time I am at least thinking something critical. Which is awful.
And I do it more to myself than to anyone else. I am quick to tear my self down, frequently out loud, over the smallest infraction. Didn’t get up right when the alarm went off? Lazy. Forgot to text a student happy birthday? Selfish. Can’t figure out how much to tip the waitress? Stupid. Most days I can recount for you exactly each and every time I didn’t perform in the way that I think is right or acceptable. I am awful to myself.
And it has to stop.
During Advent our youth ministry takes a couple of Sunday nights and writes daily devotionals which we compile and give out to the congregation for them to study during Advent. It’s become a tradition and our gift to the rest of our church family to help us celebrate the season of Advent more fully. The students write them and then I go back and help them edit. And while they are all impressive and special in their own way there was one that caught my special attention this year.
The scripture was about when Mary went to see Elizabeth. I thought that the student would write about sharing your joy at Christmas but she didn’t. Instead she wrote about why it’s important for us not to judge other people and that we must care for one another because we don’t know what burdens and blessings other people are carrying with them.
Elizabeth could have thrown Mary out, called her names, refused to be kind to her. She could have seen Mary’s condition, a pregnant, unmarried teenager, and simply refused to look any further. Instead Elizabeth embraced Mary and got to share in the joy of knowing the Savior was soon to arrive.
It’s so easy to see only what’s on the outside or to see more and simply refuse to care. It’s so much simpler to judge others and cast them aside because then we don’t have to help them carry their burdens. We think if we ignore it then our lives will be easier, more peaceful. But so far that hasn’t been the case. I’ve pushed myself and only struggled more. I’ve pushed others and even pushed them away and still I don’t have peace. Pushing isn’t peaceful. Trying to be something or someone else isn’t peaceful.
But there is peace in loving others, in seeing their hardships and choosing mercy instead of judgement. There is peace in seeing people as part of one big family instead of seeing them as divided us vs. them or me vs. the world.
I’m tired of being awful.
I’m tired of feeling awful. I want to have peace. I want to share peace.
It is not always easy to love yourself and love your neighbor. But it’s what we are called to do by the Prince of Peace. And I think we’ve believed the lie that peace has to look a certain way. That somehow peace looks all calm and serene. That’s how I look when I’m bored-not necessarily peaceful. I think peace can look like a lot of different things. I think maybe peace is not an expression or a look but that it’s a state of contentment and trust. Stop expecting peace to look a certain way- there’s no peace to be found in trying to force something to be a certain way.
The way I’ve been looking for peace isn’t working for me. I’ve been trying to change people or change myself or change my situation for far too long. So I’m going to try something different. I’m going to take a deep breath and let go.
I’m going to cut myself some slack. Do the best I can at the things I am called to do and stop giving myself a hard time when it’s not what I thought it should or would be. And I’m going to assume that everyone else is doing the same, even when they aren’t, and choose to care about more than just what they do; I’ll try to see them for who they are- a child of God. I’m going to let go of my expectations for myself and everyone else and just do the best I can trusting that God is bigger than my shortcomings, doubts, and worries. I’m going to trust that if I care more about the person standing next to me than I do about myself that I will be able to love them and help them carry their burdens. I’m going to be content with right now and leave tomorrow up to the Big Boss. Because Christmas isn’t about us “making peace”. Peace is a gift that we get when we trust and let God come into our messy, sometimes awful lives. Maybe peace isn’t something we find at all. Maybe it’s simply something we accept. Not with a big shout that we’ve discovered it but with a soft sigh because we have shared in it.
I’ll confess that this one was hard for me to write. I’m not sure this is the answer. I’m not even sure this makes a whole lot of sense. I know all too well that I don’t know anything at all. But I know that I’ve never made myself more peaceful. So I’m going to trust that God promised to bring me peace and be content that He is as good as His word.
May your Advent season be one of peace.