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Recently, I was standing in the front of a store while my wife finished her shopping. To pass the time, I looked at the large number of displays of Christmas items and the horde of shoppers. Then, suddenly, and quite uncharacteristically, I wanted to scream and escape. The next five minutes seemed like an eternity.

I was perplexed by the exhibition of such a strong emotional reaction. It seemed like post-traumatic stress, which had caught me completely unaware. In fact, this emotional “meltdown” came despite having had a tranquil and pleasant time earlier in the day.

I’m an engineer and therefore a tad analytical. So I considered what could have triggered such a strong reaction. As I thought about Christmas seasons growing up, I could not remember having many surprises. Only one or two times, when I was really young, Mum surprised me with large stockings filled with gifts. Usually, she and I would simply celebrate my birthday and catch the bus to Central London in England. We would go to Gamages department store, which had a spectacular selection of toys and a huge model electric train display that would mesmerize me. I would choose my own birthday and Christmas presents and Mum would pay. I really enjoyed that time with her.

I later moved to the United States, married and we had three daughters. Because I am in business for myself, some of the Christmases were financially difficult.

Then it occurred to me that the last time I had decorated significantly was with our middle daughter Anne. She was a singer, loved the season and was such a romantic! Unexpectedly, she collapsed and died during her cross-country practice in November 2010. The sound of music was no longer heard in our home. As I hit the bottom of this melancholic pursuit, a phrase from the traditional “Messiah” popped into my mind: “Every valley shall be exalted!” Initially, I could not see the relevance to my current angst. But a few moments of reflection provided an insight.

If we try to make our way through the bottom of a dark valley, the Lord may lovingly raise the bottom of that valley so that light can penetrate and dispel that darkness and consequentially allow new growth to come. For me, the practical application was to take a moment to seek forgiveness for any ways in which my attitudes and feelings had kept me emotionally entrapped by the past.

The state I had unwittingly found myself in was not caused by the intentional actions of anyone. However, after I said my prayers, I literally felt a release, which ended up being confirmed by what happened the following weekend.

As a part of rightsizing, my wife and I had taken a lot of Christmas decorations to an area thrift store. We had kept a few boxes of lights, decorations, tinsel and other mementos. Quite surprisingly and inexplicably, I desired to pore over the contents of the boxes and put up a large number of decorative displays. This proved to be incredibly therapeutic and pleasurable. The end result was something that both my wife and I enjoy.

We are also ready to receive and enjoy family and friends who have been invited to our upcoming open house. Our home is clean and beautiful all because of Christmas shopping. It was because of the shopping I received a priceless gift – the resolution of the effects of past circumstances.