The Christmas Spirit: A Transformed Heart

Tonight I will go to our church Christmas program, which I know I will enjoy. And tomorrow night I will go see my grandson, Joshua, in his first little pre-school Christmas program. Under normal circumstances, I would be anticipating both of these events with enthusiasm, excitement and joy. But this year I have to choose between doing these "fun" things without John or not doing them at all. Even if it's something I really want to do, having to do it alone dampens my enthusiasm for any event.

In addition to John having to avoid as many situations as possible where he could be infected with something because of his compromised immune system, he just doesn't feel like going anywhere in the evenings. He's so tired at night that he can't stay awake sitting on the couch, but then he can't sleep through the night. So he's always tired; even in the mornings. He had another really rough night last night. He is struggling with nerves and anxiety, worrying about things he really can't control. I would imagine that going through chemo is a part of everything he's experiencing right now, including the emotional stress.

John hates to hear himself complain so much that if he even tells me how he really feels, he thinks he's complaining. He would much rather say, "I'm fine" than elaborate on how he's really feeling. For a while I gave him a hard time for always saying he was doing well when I knew how bad he felt. I told him his friends were asking because they really wanted to know. But as time goes on, I am beginning to understand better why he would rather just pretend to feel fine. Even I am getting tired of hearing myself tell people he doesn't ever feel good. There's nothing anybody can do. And when a friend asks, "Is John feeling better?" with obvious anticipation of a positive response in their voice, I almost feel like I am disappointing them to tell the truth. I find myself tempted more and more to tell them what I think they want to hear, or simply say, "He's fine."

I talk to John on the phone many times throughout the day and I frequently ask him how he's feeling. I understood the other day when he admitted that he almost hates to be asked that question because unless he lies, he feels like he's just continually whining. Since starting chemo, I also know that he doesn't feel very social or have the energy to interact socially. So when he's not working, he just wants to be home with me. Therefore, we may not make it to anything we've been invited to this Christmas. And although I'm disappointed not to be enjoying my friends and all the social aspects of the season, I just don't want to put any pressure on John to do things. I don't want him to feel like he's disappointing me. Because I don't feel that way.

I must admit that I do feel kind of left out and disappointed not to be enjoying all the festivity of Christmas. A part of me wants to do all the things we would normally be doing. But another part of me doesn't want to do anything or go anywhere; especially if it means doing things and going places without my husband. I can certainly do some of these things without John, (and he would be the first to encourage me) but it's not the same going without him. Not to mention, I don't want to leave him home by himself. My strongest instinct right now is simply to be with John as much as I can. I realize that it's not so much the activities that I'm missing; I'm missing doing these normal things with John. But I would prefer to be home doing nothing with him than to be doing something fun and exciting without him.

In the middle of all this emotion, I'm glad I know that the true spirit of Christmas isn't about any of the things I'm missing out on this year. I'm thankful that I can have peace and joy in my heart even in the middle of stress and a heart that is sometimes heavy. I can feel melancholy and thankful at the very same time because, even when times are hard, I know that God has gotten me through hard times before and He will again. He is always there. I know He loves us and somehow (whether I can understand the mechanics of it or not) He is working all things for our good.

I'm thankful that the things I have been through in life have not robbed me of my faith in God or His goodness. I trust Him today more than I ever have, even though everything in my life is not the way I would choose for it to be. I feel God's presence and I see the evidence of His mercy in my life. I am more keenly aware of His sovereignty than I once was. At one time, I wasn't sure my life's details were even on God's radar. And then it seemed as though He set out to prove me wrong. Because of what He has already done in my life, trusting Him has become a much more natural thing. I don't mean to imply that I don't still wrestle with circumstances or fear and anxiety. I do. But I consciously ponder, in every situation, how God can ultimately be glorified through the circumstances of my life, including suffering. I have not always thought about my life in those terms. This change in my view of life represents a transformation of my heart that only God can perform. And that transformation is possible because He sent His Son into the world.