While our children were growing up, there were many family difficulties along the way. We had lean years when employment was unusually difficult. There was a long stretch when my husband and I were giving up on our marriage and even planned our divorce. Yet around the holidays we tried to provide experiences our children would cherish and remember as happy ones. Each year we set aside our differences and prepared for Christmas with love.
During one holiday season in particular, there was barely enough money to buy presents for the children. We were both working demanding jobs and doing what we could to keep the family warm and together. There were many outside influences pulling us apart, and many more reasons, it appeared, to break up the family than to keep it together.
A statement written by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor, remains helpful to me to this day when trying to understand relationships. She wrote, “God expresses in man the infinite idea forever developing itself, broadening and rising higher and higher from a boundless basis” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 258). One definition of “develop” is to make clear, and this inspiration led me to try to see more of the divine character already designed by God in each of us, rather than dwell on the human flaws that we both seemed to be exhibiting. My perception of my husband as designed by God had to become clearer in my own heart.
I also needed to be willing to change my perception of myself from an angry victim to the forgiving and loving person God created. There was a need to correct what I was saying and doing. It doesn’t mean taking on blame for the way others behave, but it does mean being willing to do one’s part in keeping the peace. In my case, I had to stop using the past as an excuse for my own bad behavior. In fact, this reasoning opened the door wide for a clearer and healthier view of all the people around me – including myself!
I always find a verse in Scripture that helps me respond to others with more patience and love. The first letter of John in the Bible instructs: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (4:7, 8).
This message helped me on that particular Christmas Eve when we were facing so many difficulties. At first I felt I didn’t really have a prayer. But I did have a desire to love and be loved. I started with my love for God, and I let this love reach out and include my family. Love this strong could come only from God who is Love. His love, reflected by me, wouldn’t know how to shut anyone out, including my husband. I realized that God’s love doesn’t start with me; it starts with God and includes all of His children.
The next morning, we all made our way down the long staircase to our Christmas tree. Piles of snow insulated the rooftops up and down the street. The wind howled, and flames bounced from log to log in the hearth. In that moment, even though the Christmas tree stand was poking through a sparse sprinkling of presents for the children – the fewest ever – I saw something beautiful. As each reached for his or her gift, they eagerly shared the joy of opening each present together. There was such gratitude! Love hung on every word, and hugs were everywhere. Instead of ruminating or trying to find an escape route, I was giving gratitude for the ways God was revealing in us the qualities of joy and gratitude. The fact was we were together, able to share peace throughout our holiday without conflict. Such peace comes from God, the source of all peace. By agreeing that God is good and is everywhere, we find that indications of this love we can cherish will begin to appear.
I didn’t know then that my desire not just to be loved but the desire to love would become the glue that eventually brought family harmony into the new year as well. Although our marriage took several years to mend and fully heal, moments like these proved to be lines of demarcation between a broken family and one that was trying to heal from the effects of adverse circumstances.
This same spirit of Christmas – developing the desire to love and be loved no matter what the situation – is within each of us right now. All healing begins with God, each taking individual shape with one’s own desire to love as God loves, unconditionally cherishing one another as His precious children. You are one of these children!