No one has enough time toward the end of the year. It’s what everyone talks about. We have various responsibilities to take care of with work and families. We have to close out the business year. Many places are understaffed and the money is tight. Many are having to work harder than they have in the past. Students have exams. The social events pile in together. Families are either preparing to travel or preparing to receive travelers. The days grow shorter but the tasks grow longer.
And, on top of all that, Christmas is thrown in, that emotion-heightened event where we are expected to select gifts for those we love and those to whom we feel a certain obligation. Wouldn’t July 25 have been a much better date for such an observance, when the world is more relaxed and things aren’t so pressured? But Christmas is such that, whenever it might be observed, time would still become an issue.
So there’s not really enough time to do what has to be done. Isn’t it like that every year? Don’t we always say we’re going to start earlier next year or make things simpler? Yet every year our limits are tested. We’re put in that uncomfortable place of not being sure we’ll be able to get it all done by the deadline. And every year there are things which just don’t get done. Our reach exceeds our grasp, we take on more than we can adequately handle. There are plans which just don’t quite come together.
In an odd sort of way, that just may well be the very best thing about Christmas. Running out of time and falling a little short of our expectations might just be a gift. Hmmm. How so?
I was in a store recently and overheard a couple as they were shopping for their son: “He sure would love this, wouldn’t he?” “Wow, how much is it?” “Ouch, he’s not getting that, that’s for sure.” A dream felt and a limit met. How can a reminder of what we cannot have be anything but misery?
Every day we are reminded of what we cannot have or do. There is something inside us which always imagines something just beyond our reach. There are situations which are simply more than we can handle. We have to ask for help. Often the only being we can ask is God and God’s help is such that we have to continue without apparent help for a while. God brings help to us but it’s not usually immediately tangible. We’re stuck with the limitation for a while. And yes it hurts.
But there is something very holy and good about wanting something that is just beyond our ability to produce. It puts us in a place of need. It puts us in a place of hope. To know that we want more than we can provide brings us to a place of acceptance. It forces us to realize that we can always live with less than what we think is ideal. It adjusts our sights and helps teach us that what we end up having is always enough.
It also teaches us to hope. Imagining something more than we can provide for ourselves, thinking of what delights could be available were our resources increased, releases our hearts to the heavens for a while. We are lifted from the grimmer drudgery of work-a-day living and we are connected with the promise of eternal life in a new way. It’s not that eternal life is that place where we can afford everything we want. It’s more than that. Imagining our wants being totally satisfied can remind us that God wants an even better life for all creation. This life is good, so very good. Yet a better way calls to us.
Wanting more helps us see that God wants more for us, more of what really matters.
It is good to face limits. Living within our financial means is good, healthy behavior. It teaches us responsibility and patience. Imagining things beyond our limits, however, is a holy practice. Our hearts are expanded.
The same is true with our time limitations. This year we will learn again that there is not time to do all we want to do. We, and those around us, will have to make do with what we are able to do. Things will be left undone. But as we are stretched thin, we will be humbled in a way that allows us to see the limitless hope in the world. Hope is here because God lives in and around and beyond us. The light of Christ itself is that hope. Our limits reveal the limitless nature of eternal life through Christ Jesus.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.