After downsizing, the space and need for a 14-foot Christmas tree seemed unnecessary, so yesterday, we purchased a pre-lit 4-foot tabletop tree with a price that aptly fit our modest budget. Arranging it on the sideboard in our dining room was the easy part, deciding which of our 500 some ornaments would adorn this Charlie Brown tree was a bit more agonizing.
Selecting the Chicago Cubs and Bears ornaments and my husband’s golfing Santa were a no-brainer as they always take up prime real estate. However, choosing which of the dozens of ornaments that were gifted to me by my late parents or grandparents, was challenging as I recalled the precious moments and joyous occasions that accompanied each one. A tear formed in the corners of my eyes as I selected the ones that made me smile the most. I was craving some happiness at the moment because next to the ones from my late parents were the ones from dear friends who had passed on and ones having to do with family members who are estranged from me.
Estrangement during the holiday season is especially devastating, lonely, embarrassing and a hard fact of my life that I rarely share, and only with a select few. The only reason I am sharing it now is that it has become an epidemic in our society and I know too many who are suffering its ill effects. Friends and family disagree over something small or large and the relationship becomes forever severed. Perhaps one person misunderstood the other and the relationship ends. The fractures in my family are far-reaching, and frankly, I hate it. In my younger life, I remember disagreeing with my parents, siblings, aunts, uncles,cousins or friends, but the love we had for one another overcame all our differences and after a few tears or a heated exchange, we would hug and make up. All would be forgotten for sake of preserving the priceless relationship. In my life, some unspeakable abuses happened to me, but still, I forgave and loved and did all I could to preserve those dear to me. I am happy that I did because I have no regrets with those who have gone before me. I loved them with my heart and soul and still do.
This morning, the tears flowed freely and I cried like a baby for those who I love so dearly, but choose to be absent from my life. My husband held me and reminded me of Jesus’ rejection and how he absorbed all of my rejections, too, on the Cross.
I thought of what Jesus said in Luke 23:31 “for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?” and it all made sense. Until He comes again, the evil one will be seeking to rob, steal and destroy all relationships and everything we hold dear.
And in Luke 12: 51-53, He says, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three,a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
When I think about Jesus’ words, I realize that this is the price we pay for aligning ourselves with Him and that if I know my conscience is clear and I am truly following Him, then I guess I am doing all I can do. It doesn’t make estrangement any easier, but it helps me understand the price of taking up our cross. Estrangement is lonely, shameful and very sad and while I always hold out the hope of reconciliation, I have come not to expect it. Instead, I pray daily for the courage to get through the pain and that I always reflect His love.
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.” ~Colossions 3: 12-15