Monday, December 21, 2016
A number of years ago, I was blessed to attend a six-day silent retreat. It was a new experience. The very idea seemed foreign and unreal.
I had been working hard at the school. As a result of being on the move all day, and cheap, poorly fitting shoes, my feet had become quite painful. So much so that, as I stepped out of the car after driving the hour to the retreat centre, I noticed just how sore they really were. I hobbled to the register.
And so, reluctantly, I gave attention to my feet. For two days I barely walked anywhere further than the meal room. I elevated them, massaged them, and generally gave them space to rest.
And they began to heal.
So much so that by the third day I took a short walk. I did the same on the fourth and fifth days – each time walking a little further. On the final day I ran for the first time in six months.
The experience has become something of a parable for me. It reminds me that the first step to healing is often the acknowledgment of pain.
Christmas is a time of great hope and blessing from heaven. Wishes of joy, peace, and love are entirely appropriate for this God-with-us season.
What is not appropriate, however, is the denial of other emotions: fear, grief, sadness. Jesus has come, but our world is still at war; people go without; life remains uncertain. At this time we can longingly remember better days. Pain can be heightened by celebration.
And so a ‘Blue Christmas’ service begins to make sense to us. Today we gather, before the God who came, in courageous, faith-filled acknowledgement, that on this side of eternity, all is not well.
And who knows what God might do with such a grounded, honest, and hopeful trust?