I didn't want to write it because it's not really all in the "spirit of the holidays". In fact, some days I'm having trouble seeing the silver lining at all. I know it's there, though. That presence of the Lord that radiates through the darkest personal moments. Sometimes it takes faith to see it.
My whole life, the beauty of this season has been tainted by a dark hand of fear - a threat or realized pain from a person in my past still refusing to let go. Our birthdays are a day apart, which he always said made me some kind of special. He had a habit of ascribing great meaning to the meaningless. So in the joy and anticipation of parties and friends and presents, I always had to deal with what would be taken from me instead of given. Any more, he is a menace - quickly losing his power and throwing a tantrum because of it. God has given me back my voice and choice to resist. God has given me friends who understand my situation and rally in the tough times. It's no longer a war I fight alone, but with an army by my side, so the enemy looks smaller and smaller every year.
Still, there is the act of faith. "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:26) speaks to letting our hands do the talking when we talk about faith in God. I think, though, that part of those "works" can be the daily walking out of what we cannot see or touch. As one who faced debilitating depression, I know it can be as simple as getting out of bed, showering, and getting dressed. Faith that the day holds more than the pain inside. Faith that God has a purpose for these moments, even the seemingly insignificant, and that His sovereign power is working out a masterpiece with all of the shattered pieces.
I still wake up heavy with the memories of this time. I still struggle with fear as the sun sets in the evening. I still take practical precautions to ensure that my family's safety is secure. Until this person has a "Road to Damascus" experience or dies, I will most likely always have to be proactive during this time.
It's unfair and infuriating and I can finally feel that. This is a precious time of celebration and giving and beauty in the simple things. This is a season of unity and the recognition of that common bond that spans color and creed and gender and social standing. And I'm incredibly grateful for what the Lord has restored to me. This is my first year home, whole, and happy in five years. I celebrated three birthdays in one treatment center or another, because of that pitiful manipulator.
This year, however, I got to enjoy my daughter's beautiful anticipation and my son's amazement that his friends from school would honor his birthday. This year, I get to live in the victory of the freedom and choices that God has given me as I celebrate the fact that I'm GLAD to be alive. I'm grateful for it.
It's another lesson in the bittersweet - in reclaiming that which the enemy stole from me, one calendar date at a time. But I don't have to do it alone, and that makes all the difference. As my counselor at Mercy used to say, "It's not the absence of struggle, but the presence of God in the midst."