The clock on my grease-spattered oven read 5:40. I gave the pot on the stove an extra stir and set my peripheral vision to the dark street just past our living room window. Were those headlights? Would they even be arriving in a car? There’s so much we didn’t know about them—including their last names. They were ten minutes late, and I stewed.
I, of all people, should know better. For my family, ten minutes late means right on time. We’re fashionably relaxed, and we’re here to show the world there’s really no rush.
But I was edgy on the other side of that minute hand. I pushed mason jars against the ice dispenser with more force than necessary and minced the life out of two cloves of garlic, feeling every bit a fool. “They’re not coming. I told you this was going to happen. It happens every time.” My husband’s shoulders shrugged just a little; his eyes were kind. He knew I had more at stake. He hadn’t forgotten that just two days before, I’d run to Wal-Mart for a griddle so the sandwiches could toast at the same time only to be ditched two hours later, us and our tomato soup.
It was all too much.
I set the table for five, relieved I hadn’t wasted my time changing back into my jeans. (Rejection and constricting fabrics decidedly do not pair well together.) This was still time well spent, I told myself. Cooking a meal with love for my family was more than worthy enough. And I knew it was true. I knew.
But how are we really supposed to continue, God? How many times can this happen before we fold? I’m done.
Recent months made me an acquaintance to the slow boil of cynicism. It sneaked up on me when I wasn’t watching and there I stood—a frog, half-cooked, in faded sweatpants and mismatched oven mitts.
The door opened and closed, a burst of cold air. There was nervous laughter and rushed apologies and a small votive candle with glitter along the edge.
“I got this for you. It isn’t much, I hope you like blue.”
We sat around the table, passing overly-charred garlic toast and plastic bottles of salad dressing. We noticed the soft way he watched her when she spoke and the way she picked her cuticles when he mentioned his past.
Don’t we all want the same things? Aren’t we aligned at the core, aching to believe we’re wanted, appreciated, worthy of community?
When I’m not careful, I begin to believe “they” are all the same, whoever “they” happen to be.
When I’m careless, I forget I am one of them. We’re in this together, pushed and pulled into untidy piles and misshapen knots.
This Christmas, I want to lose my world-weary heart. It’s no use to me. I want to box it up, tape it closed, wrap it tight, and let it go—my gift to the atmosphere, where it floats and drifts like a thinning plume of smoke, splitting and scattering until it’s altogether gone.
I want to receive my community without apprehension and give without reservation.
I want generosity and gratitude to string our lives together, note by note, until we make a song. There’s no music in self-preservation and no rhythm in doubt. The magic moves in the brazen hope that all is never lost, not for any of us.
Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:7
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