I was recently chatting with a friend, and she told me that God was revealing to her how “clenched” she was living life. She described the symptoms: tightness in the neck/jaw/shoulders/body, lack of patience, short with people/time, exhausted, etc etc. She dialogued about how she was learning to consistently live from peace, and the journey to fight against living “clenched.” It was a much longer conversation, but ever since she described living in this manner, I’ve seen it everywhere, including in myself.
Coming into a season that represents the birth of the King, we’ve been distracted from the true meaning of celebration into keeping up with all that is swirling around in this season. (Sounds cliche, I know, but stay with me.) How merry is our Christmas? For many, including myself, Christmas season is a hectic time for parties, shopping for presents for everyone in the family, family gatherings, traveling or hosting a wide range of traditions. All of this is meant for celebration, but sometimes the long lists and ALL of the dynamics that come with the season bring a clenchedness (a new word for today!) that steals the joy from this season. For many, coming out of Christmas season means debt and exhaustion, and a need to be a recluse.
I’m putting my finger on clenched living, and saying “No more!” What do you say? Can you relate? It may mean paring back from the multitude of activities we’ve committed to, or it may mean simplifying the traditions. It may mean taking time to ‘be’ instead of always doing and on the go. It may mean pushing back against the pressures of consumerism, because let’s be honest, it’s not about Santa! A few years ago, we decided to simplify Christmas by drawing names. Now we only buy one gift. (I voted for no gifts, but we have TWO in our fam whose love language is receiving gifts, so we couldn’t nix the whole thing!) We’ve also added a tradition we’ve dubbed the Winter Olympics, which brings a whole lot of play into our Christmas. These are all things I look forward to with great joy.
Last week, with something on the calendar for every night, I felt a little clenched by Saturday. But, God reminded me that this is also a season for opening wide to GIVING—our families, our calendars, our doors and our time. I just see a picture of God’s hands wide open to us, and our hands wide open in response. Open. Heart wide open, eyes wide open, hands/arms wide open. I love that thought. I just read this in Acts 20, and it fits. (of course it does!) “It is more blessed to give than receive.”
So what can you do in this season to live unclenched? How can you operate in the peace of God? What are ways you can push back against the pressure of consumerism? How can we live in the joy of the season? How can we live wide open to the heart of God?
Remember, this season isn’t about finding the perfect gift for someone, and it’s not about cooking a ten course meal for the family. It’s about the birth of the Savior of the WORLD! The One who came to show us the Father, to show us life and the ways of His kingdom. He never lived clenched, so neither should we! That’s what we celebrate, and this is how merry stays in Christmas! It’s His gift(s) to us that is the greatest of all. Jesus brought us the gift of healing, deliverance, restoration, redemption, protection, love, and eternal life. What about Jesus’ gifts/nature speaks the most to you? For me, it’s redemption. I’ve been given a second chance at life! Remember that gift TO you when anything resembling clenched comes knocking at the door. I’m praying that the love, peace and joy of God would rise up from within you, and that you’d be living FROM this place. Be loved by Him, and keep the season simple! MERRY Christmas it shall be!