It’s the first of December and I don’t want to look into the abyss. It’s a pattern of mine to start a downward emotional slide at this time of year. First comes the pre-dread phase at about the time Christmas decorations appear at Target. By late November I’m becoming anti-social and may stay home alone on Thanksgiving, eating a veggie burger and a bottle of beer for good cheer. But when the first of December comes, the Christmas season is in full tilt and I’m into the nose dive.
In this age of psychobabble and full disclosure (I know I’m part of the problem—I’m writing a blog for heaven’s sake) most people are aware that the holiday season may not be all happiness and light for everyone. The holidays can just be a reminder of the big holes in your life, a longing for family and friends who are gone or who never existed in the first place.
I’ve been reading a great book, a novel entitled The Solace of Leaving Early by Haven Kimmel. In a passage about Amos, a young pastor in a small town in Indiana, the author writes about longing.
“That wasn’t what he really wanted to say. What he was aiming for was nostalgia, heartache, homesickness. Or stranger yet, the heart’s desire to return to someplace it had never been.” He sees a beat-up old car on the highway carrying an impoverished Hispanic family—parents and six children. He envies them. “And who on earth would want to be those parents? Amos did, and it wasn’t the first time. Certain houses caused the same wave of longing—the look of a particular curtain in an upstairs window, or a bike left on the lawn—and some movies.” He asks himself why this happens. “Because we have abandoned an infinite number and variety of pure possibilities, and perhaps they live alongside the choices we did make, immortalized in the cosmic memory. Perhaps there are unknown lives walking alongside ours, those paths we didn’t take, and we reach for them, we ache for them, and don’t know why.”
That’s as good a description of longing as I have ever seen. But I have a plan. I won’t long for what I no longer have. I won’t long for what I never had. I’m going into the Christmas season with prayer and a new heart and thank God for His infinite blessings. Wish me luck!