When I was a little girl, Christmas was magical.
I grew up in a big family and each Christmas aunts and uncles, cousins and neighbors would gather in our living room throughout the day to exchange gifts. The spirit of Christmas filled our house and radiated through each person who entered its doors. And, by day’s end, the room that held each guest was filled with paper and bows, carols and Christmas greetings.
One Christmas, though, I laid in bed after a day filled with presents, family, and friends, and felt nothing but empty.
I popped a Christmas CD in my Discman (remember those?), put on my headphones, and listened, hoping the music and carols I had grown up with would make me feel uplifted.
But it didn’t.
So, I opened my Bible and thumbed through the pages, waiting for a verse, a parable, anything to leap off the page and fill me up, but even Scripture felt hollow.
My eyes stung with tears as I turned out the light. I remember feeling alone, like someone I loved had been taken from me.
I had a difficult time falling asleep, and as I tossed and turned I prayed that God would reveal Himself. That He would fill the void that had grown between us. A space I did not realize was running dry until it was empty.
Shortly thereafter I fell asleep.
I don’t know how much time passed, but I remember being woken by a bright light. Startled, I opened my eyes, sat up in bed, and looked for my little sister who I assumed had brought in a flashlight, but woke to see only familiar shadows and the faint glow of moonlight in my bedroom.
As I laid back down, I felt the unmistakable warmth and strength of an embrace.
That was fifteen years ago. And in those fifteen years, I’ve needed to remember the feeling of that embrace, the warmth of that light, the answer to that prayer. Because sometimes, it feels like God is distant. Sometimes, it feels as though He is not listening. Sometimes, it feels like the light at the end of the tunnel is nothing more than a pinprick a million miles away.
But it is in those moments, I’ve found, that I need to break open and let everything spill out because when I open myself to Him, revealing not only my praises but also my doubts, fears, and longings, I find my relationship with Him deepens.
It is easy to love when life is simple, but deep love is forged through challenges. Adoring God means loving Him, yes. But it also means giving Him the pieces of ourselves that are breaking, too. It means letting go of the masks we wear and letting Him in fully so we can face challenges with Him.
So, this Advent Season, I ask you to open your hearts. To offer prayers you may have buried or cast aside as being unanswerable. To give thanks for the good and the bad. And to let Him in.
Let Him hold you through your prayers. And we will pray with you.