What makes you sad? I know there can be many things that make us sad (laughs), but that kind of sad like when we were kids and we got sick we needed to stay home for days, unable to play with our friends. We might have looked out the window of our room and watched them play exuberantly. Then we turned away from it, sighing deeply, sadness mirrored in our eyes. It is one thing to be sick, and an entirely different thing to be unable to do the things we’d love to do and go to places we’d love to see.
For many years now, I have been unable to travel, near or far. Before I became ill in 2003, I loved to travel, here and abroad. On holidays, I always had a travel plan set in place. I loved vacationing with family, road tripping, and staying in hotels and resorts. Around the third quarter of 2003, I planned a Christmas holiday in Australia with Hannah and Felix. Around this time, I had been planning to reconcile with my husband after more than 2 years of separation. I thought that going away and spending time together with our daughter would make the reconciliation more meaningful and memorable and last a lifetime. But in October of that year, I fell seriously ill.
While I spent months in bed, sick and uncertain of my future, being unable to travel was farthest from my mind. I only wanted to make things right with God, receive my healing, and go back to my work.
But healing and recovery haven’t come fully until now. And my career was gone 12 years ago. For years, I had to struggle to make peace with that fact. But one thing is certain: I found my life in the Lord Jesus Christ. I identified with the apostle Paul’s words:
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him… — that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:8-11 ESV, italics mine).
I found myself in Jesus, and through the years, I have come to know Him and walk with Him intimately. I have learned a whole mountain of lessons that will last me for eternity. I learned to be content and at peace in Him. For many years as I waited for healing, my life revolved around my Savior (praise and worship, prayers, the Word, witnessing to loved ones, Church, crusades) and my home and family. Though I was sick and weak, the Lord supplied me with enduring peace and joy. I was grateful for even the smallest blessings.
Then, social media entered my life. Through it, the world opened up to me again and I saw what other people in the planet did and I was reminded of my old life (the trips and holidays part). My peace was shaken and the wall of contentment which I built around me cracked as I began to desire things outside of my little world. Deep desires that were hard to overcome found a place in my heart and since then, I had to struggle against comparison and envy. Longing for things other than God – a European tour, a US tour, trip to Disneyland for the kids, holidays at the beach – began to grow within me. And while I gave time and space for these thoughts and dreams to play in my mind, the deeper the claws of longing dug. By God’s immense blessings, we have the financial means, but my frail health hinders any plans of family travel (except for my husband’s business trips every now and then).
It was as if I was that child down with the flu once again and looking out the window, feeling sad that I couldn’t play outside with my friends.
So I looked for ways to banish the desires and dreams (for the more I dwelt in them, the more I became sad and dissatisfied). I only mention them in my prayers as attached to my supplication for healing. But I know that they are not hidden from God no matter how I try to suppress them. My heart and soul are ever open to Him.
I often think that if we lived on top of a mountain where there were no Joneses, cell sites, and wifi, I would be happy and contended with what I have and with what I can do no matter how meager they are. That’s the funny thing (or maybe a painful reality!).
When we have someone to compare with, life is altered. Something shifts within us (and it’s not always for the better).
And now that Christmas season is here once again, I know that neighbors, friends (on social media who are the only ones I see), Church brethren, families of our kids’ classmates, will be moving from one place to another as they spend the holidays somewhere else. Like birds migrating, this “ritual” of people with means and health can’t be stopped. For myself, I can curb the craving and absorb the sadness of not being able to leave home, by God’s grace. But the kids. I would love for them to have a meaningful Christmas and memorable holidays.
That’s why I’m focusing my eyes on the Lord Jesus steadfastly: The King of kings who chose to enter the world through the womb of a simple virgin, in a manger inside a cold and damp barn in a little town, and be wrapped in swaddling cloth. His very first visitors were poor, unknown shepherds, but nevertheless, they were invited by an angel and guided by a bright, shining star.
Except for a brief story when He was 12 years old, nothing more is recorded of Jesus’ growing up years. But we learn that He became a carpenter, a humble occupation. There are no recorded family vacations, whether grand or modest. And when He at last showed Himself to the world at age 30, He “went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people” (Mat. 9:35). He went about His Father’s business, doing only what mattered eternally.
As this post was forming in my heart, I was drawn to Matthew 11:29, this time, seeing it in a different light:
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Mat. 11:29)
The Lord wants us to learn of Him (that has been the silent message of His humble birth!). He’s been trying to drive home to this materialistic, selfish world that He is meek and lowly in heart – no foolish pride, arrogance, or superfluity. It is only when we have learned of Him – to be meek and lowly in heart ourselves – that we can find rest for our souls!
This Christmas season, whether we are able or unable to go places, may we remember to behold Jesus’ life and example of simplicity, of doing the Father’s will, and living for the Kingdom. This will extinguish all comparison trap, envy, and discontent.
Like a horse wearing blinders so that it will only follow the path where its master leads, may we look unto Jesus and not to the world.
May we experience to the full what the shepherds experienced that night, listening to the angel’s good tidings of great joy and following the star to our Savior.
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Journey with Jesus,