Clearing Space and Hiding Grizzly
When you move Christmas into your house, other stuff has to go.
Last weekend my husband and I spent the better part of two days decorating for Christmas. We were hosting a party and thus had a self-imposed deadline to make the house look like Christmas. We had already devoted an evening during the week to unpacking boxes of decorations from the attic. In addition to the five manger scenes and fifteen Santas scattered about the house, I’d set up an artificial tree, covered in redbirds and crosses.Then on a cold, rainy Saturday, we brought in a live tree and four wreaths and greens for the mantles and began stringing lights and tying bows and making garlands.
The hard part of this process is what to do with the stuff that is displaced when you display a manger scene on top of a chest or move a tree into an already fully furnished room. I couldn’t help but notice the parallel as I am waiting in Advent. Christmas takes up space!
I wrote about this last year - how our lives are the inn at Bethlehem. No room for the Christ Child. But how he will come anyway. He will condescend to the dirtiest, darkest stable.
As I read that post a year later, in light of learning to let go and deal with loss this year, I notice two things.
First, I desire to create space. I’m actually culling the Christmas decorations! We married 31 years ago on Dec. 19th, so we got an abundance of Christmas decorations for wedding gifts not to mention following years of accumulation. We are terribly sentimental about ornaments. Each one has a story; but this year I’ve found myself able to throw out broken ones and giving away others. I just don’t want to keep packing and unpacking this same old stuff.
That last sentence reads like something I’ve said to my counselor. And to Jesus.
“Do you want to get well?” Jesus asked the man by the pool at Bethesda.
Yes. I answer. And so I will let go, throw out, give away, whatever it takes not to keep packing and unpacking the same old stuff that is no longer useful or beautiful.
I’ve long noticed a pattern in my life. When I want to make changes, I start in the physical realm. I need to embody things. Somehow rearranging furniture or clearing out my closet helps me get to the interior spaces of my mind and heart that need light, air, dusting and cleaning. I recently cut down an entire hedgerow bordering our yard. I was in tears the morning I started it and couldn’t have told you why. Suddenly the shrubs that have been there twenty years had to go! I felt pinned in, trapped, like I was unable to see what was happening with my neighbors and out on the street. Maybe it was fear rearing its ugly head. Somehow if I can see what is coming toward me I think I will be OK. Who but God knows what was driving me? But I got out the hedge trimmers and extension cords and purged my soul while my shoulders vibrated. I couldn’t manage the anxiety but I could clear the space. I could create an opening for the light to shine through.
And somehow the spaciousness and the light took away the anxiety.
The second thing I’m seeing is how Grizzly incarnates this idea of making space. As my husband and I continued readying the house for the party, we realized his large kennel in the breakfast area had to go.
Who wants to sit in the glow of candlelight dining on chicken and wild rice served on lovely Christmas china with Grizzly sitting 18 inches away in his wire kennel, whistling and sighing and flopping his tail in hopes being noticed and a morsel being shared? Beautiful, majestic, and as clean as we TRY to keep him, he really didn’t seem to fit the atmosphere we were trying to create for that evening. So the moving and space-making continued. We had to drag his kennel into our bedroom which necessitated moving a table and lamp out of there into my study. Even as we did it, I had a strange sense of guilt about hiding Grizzly in the bedroom.
“He’s a dog,” I told myself. “Get over it. It’s only for a night. He doesn’t realize you are hiding him."
The guest came and we had a fine evening and as we were beginning to stir from our chairs and head toward the door, I saw Grizzly bounding through the hallway among our guest headed toward me. My husband, with a smile on his face that I adore, had gone to our bedroom and let Grizzly out of his kennel and was introducing him to our friends as if this beast were our most prized possession.
And then I realized that strange sense of guilt from earlier. If you’ve been reading here since March, you know that Grizzly often serves as a mirror for me. God has used these four enormous paws to bound into my heart and mind like never before. That strange guilt about hiding Grizzly is how I am with Jesus sometimes. I want to hide Him in the bedroom because He may not fit the atmosphere I am trying to create. When that atmosphere is my ego, looking strong and capable to the world, He doesn’t fit into that. When that atmosphere is ‘the way it has always been,’ or what is most expedient or comfortable; well, he may not fit that either.
The look on my husband’s face, the pleasure of sharing this dog with our friends in that moment, and Grizzly’s thrill at finding me in the crowd is burned into my memory. It’s an image that has become my Advent prayer.
Make it true for me always, O God, that even when I try to hide you, I can’t. Help me to believe what’s true, that you are always bounding toward me with love. When I worry about where following you will lead, you will surprise and delight me in spite of my fear. May love for you so fill my heart that I cannot help but share you- even when it changes my carefully constructed atmosphere.