The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself. – Anna Quindlen
The sweet promise of Christmas allows the world to stop, be still and take a breath. We drape white lights on mailboxes, homes and buildings to remind us of the beautiful redemption Christmas offers. This is the time of year when peace accompanies every gift and love has a chance to win.
This is also the time of year when I feel the most anxious.
Looking at my shopping list and remembering Christmases past can make my palms sweat and my stomach churn. I’m reminded there was once a time when I thought I had to be perfect for Christmas to bring its sweet promise.
Christmas is almost here and I want to feel its beautiful redemption, too.
My Christmas shopping list
Mary Beth and I have navigated through life’s highlights and disappointments. We have also enjoyed the Tuesday-night meatloaf dinners in between. I can’t imagine my life without her.
My wife is more than someone to spend time with; she provides the mirror to my soul and the one who helps me see the worthiness that lives here.
She is also the person who makes sure Christmas arrives in our home.
Mary Beth handles the holiday shopping, cooking and decorating. This leaves me to do the one task she cannot do – select her Christmas gifts. Mary Beth is the only name on my Christmas shopping list.
I have no problem selecting her birthday gift or planning a special anniversary dinner. But at Christmas, I get anxious because I think I have to be perfect. My knees shake standing in the women’s department looking for a gift that is in the right color and in the perfect size.
This is the time of the year when I think I have to find the perfect gift to make certain Mary Beth will continue to choose me.
When I was young, I wanted to feel the sweet promise of Christmas more than I wanted any other gift. However, my Christmas happiness depended on one single, but important factor – the condition of my mother.
Living with an alcoholic parent was like living in a world where I could see the promise of love, but the impenetrable veneer of bourbon kept it just out of reach. She was right there in one sense and 1000 miles away in another.
And my worthiness felt just as far away.
Maybe if I did things better then she would put the glass down, I thought. If I could find a way to be perfect then she would join us to decorate the tree or wrap gifts beside the fireplace.
It’s warm here Mom and I need help wrapping your gift. When we are done we can throw the extra wrapping paper into the fire and smile as we watch it burn.
Somewhere inside of that little boy he thought the promise of Christmas would bring his mother to him if he could be perfect. If he could accomplish perfection, he thought, she would choose him.
This week I will begin shopping for Mary Beth’s gifts.
We decided I would get her gift cards to her favorite clothing stores so she could take advantage of the after-Christmas sales. I want her to find exactly what she wants. No doubt she will enjoy browsing the racks looking for new outfits that are in the right color, and in the perfect size.
This leaves me to find the other gifts. Gifts that will let her know I understand what she likes and gifts that will make her life a little more comfortable. She deserves these gifts.
We have spent 26 Christmases together, and for the first time I have found a gift I think she will appreciate the most. I found it by listening to the truth and not fear. I found it by learning that forgiveness is the right medicine for my soul.
I found the gift by using the mirror Mary Beth gave me many years ago.
My gift won’t come with a receipt or a warranty. My gift won’t come with an expiration date or a return policy. It won’t be pushed to the back of the closet or lost under the car seat. The gift won’t be in the right color or in the perfect size.
My gift will be my smile.
I will show her the smile of a happy man.
I will show her the smile of a forgiving man.
I will show her a smile that will let her know I’m learning how to love myself a little more.
I will show her a smile that is sincere, honest and true.
I will show my wife a smile that tells her I feel worthy, once and for all, of her love.
I will show my wife a smile that tells her I know I don’t have to be perfect to be her choice.
After all, store-bought gifts may come in the right color and in the perfect size, but love doesn’t have to be perfect – it just has to be given the chance to win.
The promise of Christmas is here for me.
The not-so-perfect Christmas gift
My mother can’t be here to see the white lights. She can’t decorate the tree or wrap gifts by the fireplace. But her soul can be warmed by the beautiful redemption of Christmas.
I have one last Christmas gift for you Mom. Come sit with me. Even though it’s not perfect, it at least comes with its own sweet promise. It’s called forgiveness and I wrapped it just for you.