My 2013 Christmas season was definitely not perfect. We got a really late start putting up the Christmas tree and decorations. We traveled hundreds of miles and slept in eight different beds. On the road, it was hard to fix or find “good” food, and I put on a few extra pounds. My brother, Bruce, and his family were not able to attend this year’s family Christmas gathering because they had some gnarly flu bug. My team lost the family Christmas Eve football game when I fumbled a sure interception on the last play of the game! We were not able to be with any of our four kids or three grandkids on Christmas Day. We had some unexpected expenses, draining our checking account to almost zero. I disappointed some friends and family. My wife had an annoying earache all through the Christmas season.
This year’s Christmas was far from perfect. This should shock no one. What is shocking is that any of us ever expect the perfect Christmas. Or the perfect spouse. The perfect family. The perfect job. The perfect church. The perfect friend.
Spoiler alert: There is no perfect spouse, no perfect family, no perfect church, no perfect job, no perfect Christmas because… well because there are no perfect people. Other people are almost as screwed up as you are. They (and we) misunderstand, disagree, shade the truth, break promises, judge motives, manipulate, hurt, irritate, exclude, ignore, fight, defend extreme opinions, say hurtful words, watch shallow movies, enjoy weird things, erupt in anger, and miss easy interceptions. People get sick, get old, get buzzed, get grumpy, get PMS, get tired, get crazy, get arrested, get depressed, get conned. The dream of a perfect Christmas is…well…just a dream.
Still, the dream rises each Christmas, and every year it is dutifully shot down. But the biggest casualty is not the punctured dream. The loss is what the dream shielded us from seeing in the first place. The search for the perfect Christmas invariably blinds us to the good: the good moments, the good conversations, the good breaks, the good God. Focusing on the hopes that never materialized, we easily miss the good that did.
So here is an odd thought that just might be true: When you go into Christmas expecting it to be imperfect, you are in a much better position to see and enjoy the bits of good scattered all through the Christmas season. I went in to this Christmas knowing it would be imperfect. It was.
Still, there were some moments of good this Christmas. I enjoyed meals and conversations with each of my children and grandchildren at some point this December. No one was injured in the Christmas football game. I had an important conversation with my mom until 2 a.m. one morning. I sang Christmas songs with my 92 year old mother-in-law at her assisted living center one evening. God forgave me repeated selfish thoughts, words, and choices. I slept beautifully. I didn’t have an earache. (O.K., that was out-of-bounds.) I had a long, refreshing afternoon conversation with my nephew. We didn’t have a flat tire. We didn’t attend a funeral. I experienced my thirtieth Christmas married to my friend, Joy. God was near. Hmm, that’s odd. Maybe it was the perfect Christmas after all.
[Ironic postscript: Here’s the story behind this blog. Turns out this “pursuit of the perfect obscures the good” theme has another unexpected application. It dawned on me that wanting to write the perfect blog keeps me from writing “just” a good one. A few paragraphs with a potential nugget of good for someone never get posted because I dream of a blog that is compelling, stirring, and life-changing for everyone! I’m thinking I’ll be writing a bit more this next year.]