The one-two punch of Thanksgiving and Christmas can be an especially challenging time for people who struggle with body image and comparison issues. For some it is a time of concern about eating and weight gain. For others, the holidays bring interpersonal situations that are supercharged with emotion and expectation, often resulting in disappointment. Some experience the holidays as painful reminders of loss or loneliness.
Throw in a pandemic, and you might be terrified that the holidays quickly approach. But wait—there is hope!
The cure for the holiday blues starts with the fact that the holidays are indeed jarring. They disrupt our schedules, routines, eating habits, choices in movies and music, and finances. And, it is in times of disruption, which force us out of our habits, that we have the greatest opportunity for some serious metanoia. For you non-Greek speakers out there, metanoia is the word used in the New Testament that means “repentance,” or literally, “a change of mind.”
So, what should you change your mind about that is going to help you through the holidays and beyond?
You should replace the illusion that you are in control with the reality that when you are weak, then you are strong.
I am, of course, paraphrasing a portion of Paul’s exposition of this paradoxical principle of Scripture:
But he [God] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV)
In this context, Thanksgiving is a time in which we express gratitude for things totally out of our control. We are not the cause of that for which we are thankful—God is.
George Washington, in his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789 referred to God as the “beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.” We experience stress when we think we are the “Author” of the goodness in our lives; if we are the “Author,” then we are responsible for generating good—and we are responsible when we fail to achieve our desires. When we do this, we replace God and His divine power with our own impotence—no wonder we get stressed approaching life from this flawed position.
But, when we are weak—when we acknowledge God is in control and we rely on his grace—we experience His strength.
Letting go of control is easier said than done, though it is, as with most spiritual practices, simple.
And what about Christmas?
In Christmas, the Son, while maintaining His full deity, put on flesh, experiencing the vulnerability (and lack of control) of a baby, of a human, relying fully on His union with the Father and the Holy Spirit. As always, Christ is the solution to our problems as He models the solution to our problems.
Christmas provides constant reminders to change our minds—to release the pressure to look a certain way, to have our relationships live up to some idealized picture we have in our minds—and instead to surrender control to the Father and be filled with the Holy Spirit because of the work of Christ.
So, this holiday season, try to enjoy all of the nonessentials of the holidays—the food, the social gatherings, the decorations, the fun movies, the inspiring music, the gift giving and receiving. But be grounded in the essential message of these holidays (or, more accurately, holy days): In Christ, you are unified with your Creator, the epitome of love. In this union, you will experience grace and discover joy.
May we all express gratitude to God this Thanksgiving and share the wonder of Christ with others this Christmas.
Sean Coons is a writer, musician, and educator living in Idaho’s Treasure Valley with his wife and son. Sean’s novel,Firefly, is a comedic middle grade adventure. He is also the author of Body, a Christian fiction comedy exploring body image and intuitive eating. Connect with Sean at www.SeanCoons.com, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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