Random Thoughts, Part One
For all of my talk about taking control of the direction of your flow, I may be one of the hardest examples to deal with when I fail, and I DO fail. It is my contention that “The devil made me do it” is an inaccurate statement because the devil can make you do nothing. Everything we do, everything we say, everything we think, necessarily comes through the filter of our minds first so that we make the decision to do and say and think those things. The devil’s role in this is not that of a puppet master, but rather an instigator. He merely suggests a course of action, although most of the the time I would agree that he’s very persuasive. But when the rubber meets the road, we have to make the decision ourselves. Therefore, “the devil SUGGESTED I do it and I decided he was right” would be the more accurate phrasing.
This hit home for me in a powerful way recently as I had to redirect my flow during the Christmas season. Frankly, money was the issue at the root of my “funk” because I had just started full-time in my etching business and with the additional problems and expenses of a move a couple of months earlier, we were strapped.
Now at Christmas, it’s hard to get me down. My flow is at its positive peak during the holidays. This particular year however, we were so tight that we didn’t even think we’d be able to buy cheap gifts for the names we had drawn, much less gifts for each other. The gifts for each other were really of no big interest to us because we had been prepared to take it easy this year and we’d never gone way out of line for each other’s Christmas gifts before. But I have this thing about being able to do my part with the gifts at Christmas when it comes to all the swapping, especially if I know that others are going to do for me. It’s pride and I know it. And before you start shouting at your book and ripping pages into shreds or tearing them out, balling them into projectiles and throwing them at the cat, all the while protesting, “That’s not what Christmas is about, Mr. Flow! You of all people should know that!”, let me finish. I, in fact, DO know that and whole-heartedly agree. And if you don’t mind my saying so, you should check that temper of yours. Even the cat wants to get the good side of your Flow.
But yes, I know. That was part of the problem. The other part was that I had gotten sick and my defenses were down physically and mentally. I just didn’t want to fight the devil and that’s dangerous. Never tempt him, but never give up the fight if you’re engaged in one. (By the way, you’re ALWAYS ingaged in one with the devil.) The last element to my problem was that due to my exhaution from the sickness and my worry about money, I stopped reading the Word of God for a few days and rarely talked with Him. I was just tired. That’s when the devil stepped in with his strongest suggestions. Again, he didn’t take control of my mind, but he put negative thoughts in my head and I decided it was easier to believe them instead of turning my back on him and toward God.
So for several days in December of 2008, I became a miserable grouch. I fought with my wife, who was battling stress of her own from school issues and other things, I was less than patient with my four year old son, and I genuinely felt like everything had gone sour and life was worthless until after Christmas. I had completely lost control of my personal Flow, which took absolutely no time finding its way into other’s lives and flows and this lost for me, the meaning of Christmas. It had become a source of materialism and financial pride. I even went so far as to declare to my wife that I would not be happy until December 26 and she could just deal with it. What a jerk! And what a way to try and ruin Christmas for everyone else!
I thought I was expected to be some financial Santa Claus to those who were supposed to get gifts from me and I simply could not be that for them. See what happens when you lose the real meaning behind things? You listen to the devil’s lies and you start to lie to yourself.
The fact of the matter was that things were going exceedingly well for me. God had suggested that I go out on my own with my etching business back in the middle of October. Up until my depression in mid-December, my shortest week had still seen me double my old income. Most weeks saw it tripled. True, money was tight because we had been hit with a large mound of expenses apart from normal bills and living expenses during the last couple of months, but God was supplying my needs. We were paying the bills, food was on the table, and we had a wonderful little house we were renting for a great price. I could not see the blessing because I was focusing on a small inconvenience. I found that focusing on the right things changes your perspective all the way around. The wrong road gets you lost. The right road gets you found.
I started to see clearly on the Saturday night before Christmas in the most unlikely of places. Kayla’s family was never big on granduer and pomp. I love that about them because what you see is what you get. They’re not afraid to show their true colors and they’re happy with who they are. They see no reason to put on a show or a false mask for those who come around. Kayla’s mother had passed earler in the year and Kayla wondered if it would mean the end of seeing her brothers, Jerry and Phil, her sister, Thea and their respective families. She had known Christmas eve’s swapping gifts around the tree her whole life. The last Christmas had revealed something different, almost distant in the gathering and it seemed to say, “We all know this is Mama’s last Christmas and we’re doing this for her. Next year you’re on your own.” Then Hazel did pass. And the months leading up to Christmas found Kayla a bit anxious about how the family would respond. When she found out, via email, that there would be no gathering to speak of, she decided to do something about it. She was determined that this family, who was known for doing their own thing, would not foresake the fellowship at Christmas time. She suggested a much simpler gathering. Coffee and cake around the dining room table. She decided that after all these years, they would no longer DO Christmas, but they would BE Christmas. They would embrace the true meaning by embracing each other in simple, time-tested fellowship. Something, she felt, that was missing in our society.
I was in my depression all that day and even into the drive. But as we neared Jerry’s house, something started to change. I care about her family and because we had agreed to bring no presents, only ourselves, there would be no pretenses and no masks. We would love on each other and we would laugh. We would celebrate in the way that I think God truly wants us to celebrate.
We sat around that dining room table for four and a half hours, bearing to leave only when the clock struck midnight. And as we left, I had a new perspective on Christmas. I’d found it again around the dining room table with Jerry and Becky, Phil and Geretha, Kayla and me.
The next morning, Kayla felt horrible. She was in the throes of the cold that had gripped me so hard earlier and we didn’t make church. I got up well before her and decided to pick up the Bible. I’d just finished Acts and wanted to get started on an in depth study of the Gospels, beginning with Matthew. The Christmas story was renewed for me and such contentment and fellowship with God washed over me that I was about to burst. My Flow was once again headed in the right direction and it felt good. I understood that Christmas was not about the gifts and what people think of you. And even if you’re like me and get more out of giving than receiving (I could care less if I ever got a thing. I just like watching people’s faces when I give them something), a person can still lose the meaning of Christmas behind a murky curtain of vanity and pride.
I still want to give stuff at Christmas. I still want to light up a face. But I now know that I have something much more valuable to give than any wrapped present on any occasion.
My love and my time.
If I have nothing financial to throw under the tree, I’ll always be able to give that. And that’s something you can’t put a price on.