What do you do when you feel nothing in the middle of the season where you’re supposed to feel everything?
I was standing in my kitchen with wrapped gifts that were going to an orphanage, looking across the counter at ingredients I’d bought to bake Christmas cookies. There were Christmas carols on as I did my chores around the house. And it suddenly hit me: I felt nothing. No warm fuzzies. No Christmas magic. Nothing bad, either. Just nothing.
I tried to just say “whatever” and move on, but it was bugging me.
Why am I so emotionally disconnected from Christmas? What in the world am I supposed to do with this? Whatever. I don’t have time for this. Maybe I should see a counselor. Or can this just be solved by watching “Polar Express” with my kids tonight? If I called my friend, would she just confirm that I am, in fact, dead inside? Maybe I should listen to that song “Christmas Shoes.” Or the one that starts all morose with “I heard the bells on Christmas day.” That made me cry once. Maybe I’ll feel something if I listen to that.
If you feel anything like this, then there’s only one thing we need to do. I just didn’t remember what that was until I asked God: “What do you think about this, God? Am I OK or not?”
I suddenly remembered a sermon I gave a year or two ago called “What To Do When Everything is Normal.” (One weird part of my occupation is occasionally getting to quote myself.) So I pulled out my notes.
Normal! That’s what I was feeling. Not dead inside. Just the dreaded, boring, everyday normal. The hit-the-same-nail-on-the-head-and-get-it-all-done normal. The kind of normal that colors everything gray. After I read through my sermon notes again, I saw it there in black and white. What do we do when everything’s normal? The answer: remember.
All throughout the Bible, God tells his people to remember. There are festivals about it. There are offerings about it. There are poems about it. There are straight-up commands about it. We are supposed to remember, especially when we are in a time in our life when everything just feels normal.
Normal usually means everything’s pretty OK. No crisis. Nothing major you’re freaking out about. No injury you’re healing from. It’s all good. And when it is, God wants us to remember Him so that we can fight the temptation to become numb and gray and bored with what’s actually pretty great around us. If you’re not sure what you believe about God, some of these might be tricky, but what if you just assumed for the sake of the exercise that God is ultimately in control of all that goes down here on Earth? Remember goodness as His goodness to you. Remember the past and assume He was there. Imagine a God who is for your good future. We are told to have constant rhythms of remembering, especially during times of normal when we are most tempted to go a little numb. Numb is a luxury only afforded by the blessings of normal.
So I’ve decided to do a week of remembering before Christmas to just punch through the normal. Join me. Find me on Instagram @theallipatterson if you want to chime in. I’ll record some of my remembering there.
1. Plan a lunch or a happy hour with my oldest friend here in town.
I’m going to recall how God worked to bring us together and laugh about how he succeeded even though I was always trying to avoid her. Remember the ridiculous thing she left on my desk one day. Look forward to the trip we’re taking together in 2020 and talk about what we hope God will do in it.
2. Spend five minutes each day remembering something God did in my life this past year.
They are already starting to run through my mind: “Grew my friendship with Rachel. Gave me endurance for school. Strengthened my marriage on our trip to California. Helped me have the difficult conversation with.” I’ll just say, “Wow, God. You did that.”
3. Watch one of these stories.
When we remember, we don’t do it alone. We get to share in the “corporate memory” of what God has done in our extended community. So we can listen and remember what He’s done all around us.
4. Finish celebrating Advent.
The only time I’ve felt the full color of Christmas this season has been the last two weekends, celebrating Advent at church and at home. Remembering is exactly what Advent is! Remembering the story of Jesus and what he brought for us when he came. Let’s keep doing it. Here’s Week 1 on Hope, or Week 2 on Peace, or Week 3 on Joy if you missed them.
Bonus Points: If you do follow Jesus, do communion. This is what Jesus told us to do in order to remember him. It was His command at his last supper before his death. He wanted anyone who follows him to remember that the baby born in the manger came for them. He showed up on a mission to rescue us because we can’t help ourselves get right with God. Only He can do that. We are commanded to regularly remember that His birth, life, death, and resurrection were all for us. Christmas seems like just the right time.
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’
Process, journal or discuss the themes of this article - here's a few questions to get the ball rolling...
What strikes you most about Alli’s article?
If you had to identify three things that are bringing you down, what do you think is contributing to any numbness or apathy you feel? Write down or share at least three, then ask God to help you with them. (That’s as easy as saying, “God, I need help!”)
What would strengthen you to remember? Write or share with a friend as many as you can bring to mind.
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