I had a moment of inspiration while listening to a Poison song on my flight from Austin to San Francisco this morning. In my mind’s eye, I see you scratching your head and raising your eyebrow right now—most of you, that is, except my friend Tara D’Onofrio who still has posters of Brett Michaels on her bedroom wall (Greatest Christmas card ever, Tara).
The song is Something to Believe in and it’s about craving hope. The singer profiles a veteran experiencing the sting of hopelessness at the loss of his family and, quite possibly, his soul after coming back from war. In another verse the singer references a friend of his who ended his life just before Christmas.
I’ve been traveling a lot in December and haven’t really gotten into “the Christmas spirit.” I was away the weekend my family went out and got our Christmas tree and I haven’t been able to sit on the couch make fun of Hallmark movies with my wife and kids as much as I’d like to—a favorite pastime of ours. It is what it is, my business thrives when I’m on the go and someone has to pay for all those things that will be opened on Christmas morning, but still, it’s hard being away this time of year because I genuinely enjoy the season.
I found myself replaying the song multiple times this morning, not because it’s a masterpiece of a song (it’s quite simple, really), but because it made me think that, while the holidays are a happy time for me, they aren’t a happy time for everyone—and I’m not talking about non-believers here (many of my non-believer friends experience just as much joy as I do during this time of year). No, I’m talking about those people who, like those mentioned in the song, are tormented by feelings of loneliness, despair, and depression.
If you are going through the dissolution of a marriage, or long-term relationship, the love at first sight and happily ever after themes of Hallmark’s Christmas movies may make you feel worse. Those with have built a wall around themselves due to emotional pain, depression, and perceived personal failures may feel worse this time of year because, while they are barraged with messages of joy, happiness, and togetherness, they simply can’t feel it and they may question what’s wrong with me? Why am I not normal?
All that stuff that I miss when I’m on the road—the cheesy movies, the gift exchange parties, the debates over the perfect tree, the shopping (I still like to buy gifts at brick-and-mortar stores) isn’t what Christmas is all about. Christmas is the hope that Brett Michaels is longing for in Something to Believe in. It’s the glimmer of light that will eventually break through the darkness. It’s the notion that despair doesn’t have to last forever—though it’s not ended by lights, bows, presents, caramel lattes, or Hallmark movies, but by the belief that there is something bigger out there that we can believe in—something to find hope in.
For us believers, it’s the heart of the Christmas story—that an innocent child can grow up and inspire those around Him to love one another—to treat each other the way they’d like to be treated. To withhold judgement against others, regardless of who they are and what they’ve done. To forgive. To turn the other cheek. And yes, the belief that you are so valued and so loved, that someone would offer the ultimate sacrifice for you—to lay down their life so that you might live.
For those of you who have someone in your life for whom the holidays do not bring wide smiles and genuine excitement, maybe spread holiday cheer a little differently this year. Remind them that they are loved and valued. Tell them that you won’t judge them. Offer forgiveness if they’ve wronged you in the past. Offer to listen. In short be the flicker of light that breaks up the darkness in their life and yes—give them something to believe in.