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Hope for Brokenness and Broken Families During the Holidays

Excerpt from a blog post I wrote for SOLA Network.

"For many, the holidays are a break from regular routine to reorient to what is meaningful. For others, it feels like they have entered into a demilitarized zone. It’s a block of days on the calendar that are fraught with tension, heartache, and ambivalence. It is not a time adorned with fond memories of bonding over savory meals, entertaining stories, and shared laughter. Instead, it’s overshadowed by dread and a strong desire to hibernate and emerge on January 2 of the next year.

For instance, singles (including widows, separated, or divorced) may be invited to join existing families for a holiday meal. While they are grateful, the nauseating ache of being an outsider is unrelenting. And sadly, some singles have nowhere to go. No one is expecting them at their table.

Furthermore, families may outwardly portray mutual respect and understanding, but the pretense can’t dissipate dysfunction and disconnection. Sibling rivalry is complicated by comparison and favoritism, and parent-child relationships are heavy-laden with fear, guilt, shame, contempt, blame, and absence of protection and safety. Years of misunderstandings, unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment, and in some cases, rage, have eroded marriages and other relationships.

Women longing to cultivate life through pregnancy or adoption are confronted with their barrenness. Each greeting card of families in coordinating outfits and picturesque smiles against a scenic backdrop make grief, anger, jealousy, and envy inescapable and undeniable.

Like an old sweatshirt, ambivalence, apathy, and resignation are well worn. We try to convince ourselves that we don’t care. We shrug our shoulders, only raise an eyebrow, and are nonchalant. We utter, “It doesn’t matter”, “Whatever,” and “I’m fine.” Or we are quick to point fingers. We justify the log in our eye while arguing about the speck in others.

It’s painful for some of us to have expectations because expectations equal hurt and disappointment. But those same expectations reveal our desires for genuine connection and a felt sense for belonging. We long to be welcomed, chosen, seen, and known. That’s why we willingly abandon the lessons from the previous year and return to the doorsteps of another family gathering. We hope and dream with naivety, despite history repeatedly telling the story of disappointment that leaves us resolving, “Never again” and “I’m done”.

Hope is powerful. It is defiant. It is risky, vulnerable, and sometimes, dangerous.

Unfortunately, “hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Prov. 13:12). Unmet hope makes the soil fertile for futility and fatalism to take root and eventually pervade like weeds. The saying, “It is what it is” encapsulates this cynical feeling.

Consequently, we are left holding the broken pieces of being overlooked, dismissed, and isolated. We are reminded of the dark void of loneliness from estranged relationships and separation from loved ones due to death, unmet needs, and empty and fleeting promises.

If this is how some of us or in our communities experience holidays, how can we navigate with compassion and care? And is there another way to respond other than fight, flight, or freeze?"

Find the full article here.



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