This weekend, I served as a counselor at a youth retreat, out of cell service.
I woke up Sunday morning at 8:30am feeling most refreshed. I’d initially worried that I wouldn’t get enough winky-winky because I’d gone to bed late (12:30am), but nope…8 hours of sleep. It felt good and I was happy. (You know you’re coming up on middle age when these are the things you think about.)
Until a little while later, when I overheard that Daylight Savings Time had started that night. I hadn’t heard about it during the prior week, and didn’t see the usual Facebook memes the previous day because we were out of cell service.
So I’d actually slept only 7 hours.
The moment I realized this, I kid you not, I started feeling tired. Over one hour.
And it got me thinking: Our reality determines our thoughts and feelings to a great degree.
I can’t express how stoked I am. In order to convey my illustration, I have to be geeky – I have to accurately explain the nature of a black hole.
“Hole” has always been a misnomer (leading to a lot of inaccurate artists’ renderings over the years, corrected only recently for the mainstream in 2014’s Interstellar). A black hole is an exotic star, one collapsed so far and grown so dense that its gravity out to a certain spherical distance is strong enough to restrain all light emanating from it. Since an object is only seen by the light it reflects to your eyeballs, that spherical region of a black hole appears, well, black to the outside observer. The star itself is still inside, but forever hidden from view because its light can’t reach you.*
For a long time, I was a black hole. Sucking everything in, emitting very little. God was slowly working on my strength, changing me from the inside, but it was a process.
Then, a few years ago, I chanced into a dating relationship. We had a good five months together before she called it off. That’s okay. It happens. (She’s engaged now.) But it was a revealing time for me. I got a chance to see how such companionship affected me, what it brought out, what it exposed.
Amongst the discoveries was this: while we dated, I started taking risks I hadn’t taken before. I found a greater enthusiasm for people, asking how they were, hearing their stories. And later, after the relationship ended, I found myself tempted to revert to my usual introversion. After some self-reflection, I realized why.
12-point bucks. Festive kitchens or decorations. Caribbean vacations. Professional photos of big rocks on fingers and newly engaged couples making out in front of a barn somewhere.
Yep. Holiday social media is here.
Sometimes it seems like it’s got something to push everyone’s envy buttons. Somehow, even seeing a Pinterest-worthy Christmas lights extravaganze that outdoes yours can feel like a putdown. Not for me, but for some it can, and hey, I’m not gonna judge. We all have our quirks.
It’s not hard to understand why some dread this month.
But this season doesn’t have to be a train of helpless coveting delivered right to your phone. There is a huge opportunity here for us Christians, to let this month actually strengthen us.
You’re standing in what feels like rough pasture. Across the fence lies one that looks greener and smooth. You’re contemplating a choice, dear Christian.
You’ve met someone who makes you feel like you haven’t felt since…you can’t remember when. He’s meeting your emotional needs, just being himself. She “gets you” in a way nobody else does. When you imagine companionship with this person, you catch a glimpse of the life of which you once dreamed.
One problem: that person is off limits.
One of you is already married (or in a relationship that has not explicitly ended). S/he might be outside your age range. Or s/he might be unsuitable – mired in sin, or perhaps not a Christian.
Perhaps you started out with quite a compatible spouse, but you’ve long since lost that “peas in a pod” verve. Now you think you see it in someone else. Someone who’s dropped looks or hints that s/he’s thinking the same.
Being known, being appreciated, being fought for (instead of fought with) or finally triumphing over years of loneliness…
It feels like life.