A song, and a dance, and a second chance

I’ve been wanting some new Christmas music so I downloaded the album “This Warm December: A Brushfire Holiday Vol. 1” and have been giving it a whirl. It’s a decent mix, with a song called “Christmas Baby” by G. Love that kind of grows on you, and a really nice “Silent Night” by Zach Gill.

Kostyn has decided his favorite tune is a version of Stevie Wonder’s “Someday at Christmas” by Jack Johnson. When it comes on the little guy typically drops what he’s doing, runs over to me and points to the stereo. This means he wants to dance. So we head over to the source of the music and he wraps his hands around my index fingers and we sway and spin and smile at each other. He’s an excellent dance partner.

I think it’s poignant that this is the song above all others — the ones with the bells jingling and the “rum-pa-pum-pums” and the jolly “ho-ho-hos” — that makes him beam and sway.

Someday at Christmas there’ll be no wars
When we have learned what Christmas is for
When we have found what life’s really worth
There’ll be peace on earth

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you or for me
But someday at Christmastime

I watch his sweet face as I listen to the lyrics and I can’t help but think about how this little being epitomizes the kind of love sent straight from heaven ... so full of promise and joy, with no conditions and a million second chances when we get things wrong. I’m reminded of that quote from Dickens, “It is not a slight thing when those so fresh from God love us,” and I feel almost sad because the world I know is not peaceful enough, or good enough, or beautiful enough, to match that kind of wide-eyed wonder. And I don’t want him to ever lose it.

When Chris and I first moved to Florida back in 1996, we were dirt poor and passed our weekend nights with six-packs of cheap beer and silly card games. Sometimes we’d take the beer down to the beach and sit on the tailgate of his old truck, watching the waves crash the shore and the heat lightning bounce through the clouds over the ocean. And we’d talk about God.

I’d been raised in a Lutheran church, with Sunday school and confirmation classes and Vacation Bible School. I’d read and learned and memorized a lot about God but hadn’t exactly felt Him deep down in my core. I wanted to, I just didn’t know what I should be feeling.

Chris had been raised Catholic but had been “born again” in his early 20s and had tried a few different Christian denominations over the years. He’d read the Bible cover to cover, I think more than once, and to me he was an authority. I began studying the Bible on my own but relied on his perspective to help me wrap my heart around my faith.

The problem was, the closer I thought I was to understanding who Jesus Christ was, the worse I felt. “He’s so amazing, and loves me so much,” I told Chris, “but how can I live up to that? I fail Him. Every day I let him down, sometimes in big ways and sometimes in small ways. It’s depressing.” And Chris would talk to me about the gift of grace, and what that means not just for my eternal life but for my everyday life.

Still, I didn’t exactly “get it.” I didn’t understand why Jesus would be so willing to forgive again and again and again, why he would stand there with open arms no matter how many times we turned away. I continued to struggle, and pray.

Then one night after a particularly long discussion about it, I fell asleep and had a dream that was unlike any I’d ever had. It wasn’t even a dream, exactly, it was more like a feeling. I remember a presence being with me in my sleep — not like a ghost but just a feeling that I wasn’t alone in that moment — and I woke up feeling an incredible warmth wrapped around me, like a hug from an old friend, and my mind was blank except for two words echoing in my head and heart: “Unconditional love.”

It sounds simple, and I’m sure Chris talked to me about the unconditional love of Jesus Christ many times, but it wasn’t until I felt Him tell me Himself that I got it. That’s why. That’s why the open arms, the forgiveness, that’s why he cheers us on and smiles upon us and wants only the best for us, even when we wrongly think we know what the “best for us” is.

I have thought of that moment, that warmth, and those two words often in the years since then, but none moreso than in the past 18 months, as I’ve been getting to know this little guy who is “so fresh from God.” When he is dancing with me and Jack Johnson is singing “Someday at Christmas man will not fail; hate would be gone and love will prevail...” I see him smiling with such complete faith in me that the same warmth washes over me, and the same words echo in my heart.

I still fail every day. I fall short of my own expectations, let alone God’s hopes and dreams for me. I’m not the best mother, or wife, or friend, or daughter. But I have beautiful people in my life encouraging me, and loving me, and forgiving me. I have God’s grace bolstering my efforts for another day. I have a tiny porcelain baby lying in a manger on my table, reminding me of a promise and a gift so great I can hardly wrap my brain around it.

And I have a living, breathing example of God’s love holding tight to my fingers and mimicking my footsteps. Sometimes I let him lead, and that usually produces the most laughter from both of us.

Heaven knows I should do that more often.


Sheila said...

I'm sure I'm not the only one who is having trouble these days defining faith and what it means to me. You helped me do that more with this blog than in all my years of church-going. Thanks.

Lyn said...

You know, you should really put a warning label on these damn posts of yours. I usually read them at work and people are starting to wonder why I cry so much! Another beautiful sentiment...thanks!

Robyn said...

Thanks guys. As I said to someone earlier today, I sometimes feel like a dork for putting my thoughts like this out there for anyone to read. So it really means a lot to get feedback like this.
You guys rock. Merry Christmas!

Laura said...

Wow! That is a beautiful post. Your sister posted on my blog and sent me the link. It is beautifully written and I thank you for putting your thoughts and words out there. I am adding you to my Googler reader as soon as I post this comment!