About this time every year, I go through the same machinations. I begin the Christmas season with joy and anticipation, but as Christmas Day approaches, the unfortunate feeling of regret creeps in...regret for all the things I didn't do but should have done in the past year, regret for not being the man I know I should be, and regret for letting others down. And this year is no different. I sit here typing this blog knowing I have miserably failed friends, family, church members, myself, and God. To borrow an overused and caricatured line from Shakespeare, "Let me count the ways."
1. I have not loved my wife enough or sacrificed enough for her.
2. I have not spent enough time with my children or been gentle enough with them.
3. I have not reached out to my church members enough, especially those who are homebound and in nursing homes.
4. I have not shown enough grace to those who sometimes annoy me or who have difficult personalities.
5. I have not been patient enough with my friends.
6. I have not called my Mom and Dad enough.
7. I have not fully lived up to my potential in any area of my life, professionally or otherwise.
8. I have not taken enough risk.
9. I have not believed in myself enough.
10. I have not exercised or eaten nutritiously enough this year.
11. I have harbored some bitterness in my heart toward certain individuals.
12. I have procrastinated on far too many home and work projects.
13. I have said mean things to people...sometimes to their faces.
14. I have thought too many negative thoughts about others.
15. I have lied at times.
16. I have made myself look better on social media than I truly am.
17. I have sinned in these and so many other ways against my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I am a ridiculously successful failure...this year and every year. And, so, I continue my annual pilgrimage of self-doubt, restlessness, and remorse.
However, there is one thing different this Christmas. I woke up this morning to a simple thought...a thought I have typically suppressed during my cyclical end-of-year contritions. It is wholly unoriginal and went something like this: "But aren't all of these regrets why God took on flesh in the first place?" Like I said, it is simple enough. And it is clearly founded upon the common doctrines of divine grace, love, and mercy. There's nothing new about this thought except its timing. And the timing is perfect for this melancholic soul!
You see, it is precisely because I am a ridiculously successful failure that God sent his only begotten Son into this world. It is because I don't love enough, give enough, believe enough, sacrifice enough, or show enough grace that God was compelled to take action in the person of Emmanuel. Where I don't love enough, God first loved me. Where I harbor bitterness, God poured out his grace. Where I procrastinate, God took action. Where I lie and deceive, God proclaimed Truth. Where I am a coward, God demonstrated bold, incarnational courage. Where I am mean-spirited, God was kind and gentle. Where I think only of myself, Christ bore the cross. Where I wallow in regret, Christ offers freedom!
So, even though I continue the pilgrimage, I do so with something that makes it a bit more tolerable this year, namely, hope. As I remember why Christ came into this world, I am also reminded of his redemptive power. Sure, I'll always be a ridiculously successful failure this side of eternity; nevertheless, I serve the One who can turn my failures into successes, my weaknesses into strengths, and my nothings into somethings. I have hope, not in myself, but in the power of Christ to transform me and set me free.
Yes, the pilgrimage is difficult this year--as it is every year--but I am confident it will not end in despair. The Christmas season is about new life, love incarnate, and victory. And this year, I will seek to minor in the regret and major in the life, love, and victory! Won't you join me?
Merry Christmas, friends!