What Christmas Means to Me.
I remember my early Christmas planning starting around the age of five, which usually began the day after Thanksgiving, consisting of countless hours marking the Sears catalog with all my desires. Each item would be given a ranking, and if it had a star drawn on it, it was on the top-ten list. I would then deliver the catalog to my mother and then wait in anticipation.
Throughout the entire month of December, I would drop subtle hints about my requests to ensure that my mother knew the importance of those gifts. Those gifts were significant because each one represented a small dose of recognition, appreciation, or validation, a perfectly-wrapped gift of worthiness. My mother was also a procrastinator, so she would purchase all the gifts and then wrap them all in one evening. The following morning, usually on the 22nd or 23rd, all the fruits of her labor would arrive under the tree. I would count each package; I knew how many doses of worthiness I had ordered, and if one were missing, I would have to do a bit more prodding.
I understand if you think I was a spoiled brat, but I wasn't; I was merely a product of a home that expressed loved through material things. From as early as I could remember, there was a gift for every holiday, momentous occasion, and celebration. Don't get me wrong, I was thankful, but the gifts were not what I needed.
Back to my precise "gift selection" system...
When you think of the most precious gifts you have received, would you agree, they are valuable because they were hand-picked just for you, created with you in mind, purchased as a perfect "fit" for you and only you? The giver of this type of gift knows you well and honors the unique qualities about you. The giver "knows."
I think my selection system was a way for me to mitigate the feeling of being unknown, and relieve the pressure on my parents, to "know & see" me. If I told them exactly what to buy, it was just so much easier, but the gift I yearned for most was to be seen and known deeply.
I don't fault my parents for not being able to "see" me and celebrate all my unique qualities because they, themselves, had never been honored, or seen for that matter. My father was pressured to be just like his father, an angry drunk, and my mother was expected to be like her older sisters, who were very prim. My mother was taught to be a good Baptist, and my father learned to fight. Politics fell along one party line, and there was a strict code for moral behavior. Many rules made it pretty hard for them to be themselves; these rules served as a security blanket they carried with them. This security blanket sometimes covered their eyes when they looked at me, so I ordered my gifts and resolved myself to never being seen. The idea of being celebrated was farcical. Do you have a similar wound of unworthiness and not been "seen?"
Substituting gifts instead of seeing others has become mainstream because when we "see" others, we see a reflection of ourselves. Seeing ourselves scares us because we all have a wound of unworthiness; we have been brainwashed to have this nasty narrative running in the background of our minds.
We scour the malls and online looking for that latest trendy item or hot new fashion; we load gift cards and make purchases on Amazon. We place ribbons on the packages, and we lay them beneath a finely decorated tree. We attend our parties, and we listen to the classics. Each song we hear strikes a cord as we think about how distracted we have become, so we visit Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram and offer a cyber hug to someone hoping that someone will give us the gift we all deeply desire; to be seen and celebrated.
This year, what if we changed the game? How would we change if we stopped giving material gifts and instead, we gave the gift of the question; "what makes you wildly unique, and how can I fully see you?" How would our relationships improve if we threw off the shackles of the past and gave someone a clean slate? How would things be better if we looked to those we love and said, "Today, do what inspires you and gives you joy." Would your world change if you decided to forgive and honestly forget?
Is it conceivable that your year could launch entirely differently if you give others grace and give yourself a dose too?
The way I define grace is "Unmerited Favor."; worthy without having to ask for it! Grace means just one thing; you are worthy just as you are. Perfect. You are brilliant, kind, and worthy of love. You are evolving and changing, growing, and expanding; you are a visible expression of the Master Creator, and all that is good and perfect throughout the cosmos. Grace means that you understand that you are made from the very stardust of God.
I bet if we focus less on the material item and more on seeking to "see & know," we might discover something beautiful. We will find the beauty of ourselves in others by seeing the beauty of Divine creation. Most importantly, if we approach each person and experience with grace, we might step into unmerited favor with ourselves.
When I was in graduate school, I learned the five most essential words in therapy, "I want to know more." What if you approached each person with whom you intersect this holiday season, with this intention in mind; to know them well and remember, It all beings with just one question, "What makes you wildly unique and how can I fully "see" you?
I believe this is a mighty step toward unconditional love.