Jackson Five Friday: Joy and Pain

Hey Friends,

I hope you’ve had a wonderful week. On Tuesday I wrote out some cards, mailed some books and donated some clothes. I felt a surge of accomplishment because I’d been meaning to do these things for a long while. That same day my husband texted in all caps: PASSED THE BOARDS!!! This is a snapshot of the chasm between us.

Me: “Woo hoo, I remembered to drop off the donations!”

Him: “I passed the boards.” Unstated but equally true was “in the midst of a global pandemic with an incredibly stressful and taxing job, I somehow managed to redeem tiny snippets of time between meetings to study for and pass an eight-hour-long comprehensive medical board exam, even though I don’t currently practice medicine.”

It kind of cracks me up. Every December as I reflect on our marriage (25 years on the 29th), I marvel that he hasn’t rubbed off on me at all, at least not in the discipline department. But we are a good team. It would not be possible (and I’m more certain of little else in life) for us both to have the level of career success that Will has, and also a happy home life. Fortunately, he is wise and always treats me as a partner in his accomplishments. It is not demeaning to my intellect or self-image to recognize that my role in his life and in the lives of our sons is one of support. In fact, I know that even though I might drive around with donations in my car for weeks or even months, God has given me other gifts. I am good at encouraging, supporting and advising. When did society stop valuing these roles? So many lies have taken root in the last century, and I think we are only seeing the first rotten fruits of the distortions.

Anyway, that’s all just an aside, what I’ve been thinking about is how hard this month is for so many, not just in 2020, but every year. Sadly, the twinkling lights never manage to keep sorrow at bay. People still face tremendous loss. The pain of holidays without a loved one is often overlooked. The eighth anniversary of Sandy Hook is on Monday, and those precious ones would be in high school now. How do parents ever move on from such unfathomable sorrow? Sometimes I think it’s good to let ourselves ponder not just the joy of the season, but the gravity of the suffering we face in this life. Before the coronavirus, and in some odd way even within the pandemic, our culture wants to numb out the reality of suffering and the inevitability of death. It’s not healthy, but living in denial never is.

Another subject that our culture fails to authentically engage is what it means to love. We like to think about fairytale romances and beautifully close-knit families, but that’s the Hallmark version. Scott Sauls rightly says all true forms of love are “messy, costly and inconvenient.” If the love you are showering on others doesn’t ever feel messy, costly or inconvenient maybe it’s not even love.

But the birth of Christ addresses both these issues: (1) His birth is the promise of heaven, where every tear is wiped away; and (2) His life is the manifestation of perfect love, and more costly and inconvenient than any mere human could dream up.

This Christmas I hope we can all aim to truly love those around us, and to take hold of the wonderful truth that Jesus paid our way to heaven.

Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away…Behold I am making all things new.

Revelation 21:3b-4, 5b

With Love,


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