Dear Mom: God is NOT Mad At You About How the Holidays Went
I rolled over and grabbed my phone to see what time it was. 2:30 a.m. was grabbing me by the throat and torturing me once again. I felt paralyzed; I didn’t want to get out of bed and wake up the rest of the house, but I was even more scared to lay there with my thoughts.
Does this sound familiar to you, too? Do you wake up in the middle of the night full of terror that you’re doing all the wrong things as a mom? Or maybe, like me, you’re filled with guilt that the imperfect way you coped with last week’s holiday is going to damage your children or isolate you from God.
If I’m honest with myself, I must admit that the holidays are hard for me. I put tons of pressure on myself to make them full of family time, laughter, traditions, good food, and all the other things that I’ve conjured up in my mind they should be. I measure our holidays against this impossible standard that’s a mix of Hallmark cards and Instagram group photos where everyone is laughing and merry and authentic.
And here’s why I do that: when I was growing up, imagining how perfect my future family and my future holidays would be was how I dealt with how hard they were at the time. Every single holiday meant leaving one parent to be with another. Leaving one world to live briefly in another, where you feel like a stranger no matter how well they think they know you, because you know there’s a whole other life you live that they have no idea about. And so I would escape the anxiousness I felt by dreaming of how it would be when I had my own family and made my own holidays.
Maybe, hopefully, this doesn’t resonate with you at all. I hope. But if it does, friend, keep reading because this post isn’t all doom and gloom.
In fact, this post is actually just documenting how God whispers in the quiet moments of our lives that He is not angry with us. In Psalms 103:8, the psalmist tells us “The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.”
I realized that just like I did when I was little, I try to escape when everything in our holiday is not perfect—which would be, like, pretty much all the time. I live in a house full of humans, many of whom are in that tricky stage between 7 and 13 and will argue about things like whether the color was purple or ultraviolet. And I live with a husband who God wisely ordained to be an almost total opposite of me, which means he doesn’t always do what I say. Add two rambunctious little boys under five and an exchange student who barely speaks any English and some dogs and some cats, and a bunch of extended family obligations and a second house that needs to sell so we can buy Christmas presents…you get the idea. So I find myself doing what I’ve always done—a few more minutes scrolling the perfect pics on Instagram, another glass of wine, an extra five minutes in the bathroom for some quiet—escaping. And then I wake up in the middle of the night filled with guilt because that isn’t how I wanted it to be, and I’m so scared that God is eternally disappointed in me.
I have news for all of us who find ourselves in this position over the holidays. Just because we are disappointed in ourselves does not mean that God is disappointed or mad at us. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. When I woke up super early this morning, here is what He was whispering about the way I deal with the holidays:
I know your heart. “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me…You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb…Every day of my life was recorded in your book.” (Psalm 139:1, 3-4, 15-16). He knows that we want the holidays to be a blessing to our families. He knows how hard they are for us, because He was there through all the years when these dreams were born. And here’s the kicker, friend: He knows even better than we do how much our hearts hurt and need healing from those broken places. He is not mad at us when we aren’t feeling like we can do anything but just get a tiny bit of escape, and in His infinite wisdom He set it up so that those methods of escape are temporary and unfulfilling.
I will not pull away from you. "It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8). In the Old Testament, God’s people faced flesh and blood enemies that threatened to end their lives. But just because we can’t see our enemies like they could doesn’t mean that God makes us defeat them on our own! We face the enemies of perfectionism and guilt, and then we feel like He is angry with us for how we tried to deal with them. It’s simply not true. When we are struggling to trudge uphill through the holidays, taking three steps forward and then a couple steps back, He is closer to us than we can imagine. He is right next to us, walking us through it with kindness and compassion and cheering us on.
You did better than you think! “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:23). You fed your people. You changed their diapers, and you washed their dirty dishes. You smiled at them more than you realize. You laughed at their jokes and woke up and did it all over again. Notice that when Jesus told this parable about the servants and the talents, He didn’t say that the master was pleased because the servants had done everything perfectly. He said they had been faithful with a few things! And I guarantee that if we care enough to have anxiety over making perfect holidays, we have been faithful in a few things, too. So just like the master in the parable, God wants us to share in His happiness over how things went!
Maybe you’re thinking, yeah but you don’t know about this specific incident that happened that I’m feeling so ashamed about. You’re right about that; I don’t know the specifics. But I do know that there have been holidays in years past that I picked fights with my husband, yelled at my kids, cried in the bathroom, and acted in many ways that I’m not proud of just because I was so frustrated that my holiday dreams weren’t coming true. And even those years have been covered by God’s grace. I remember the bad things that I’m embarrassed about, but my family remembers good food and movie nights. Or they don’t remember anything in particular at all. What I’m trying to say is, only the enemy counts our sins. Our family doesn’t, and more importantly, God doesn’t. So as we move from one holiday season straight into another, I’m praying that you’re FILLED with kindness towards yourself and inner peace. He is proud of us and pleased with us, and He is making our paths straighter than we realize.