Yesterday when we were on our small-town road trip, the GPS went wonky twice. It knew what direction we were headed, but it told us we were off-roading. It thought we had gone rogue and headed into the Great Dismal Swamp.
Today it was my GPS that went went wonky. I was headed to the Holiday Market in Saxapahaw, which was great fun. My GPS sent me in circles on the longest possible route. I wandered through farmlands and small towns I’d never seen before, just off I-40. It probably added 15 minutes to my trip, but my GPS seemed to know I needed that. I was singing Christmas carols at the top of my lungs and trying to come to some sort of truce with the impending holidays. It was working.
I went to 5:00 church tonight. I love 5:00 church because you can wear jeans, but there’s always candlelight. Sometimes there are violins. It’s really peaceful. The rector was talking about his own GPS, which has a kind voice but is supremely unhelpful, to the extent that it has become a family joke. I get it. I have been known to curse like a drunken sailor at my GPS, which does not even have the benefit of having a kind voice.
And so to the point of his sermon: technological guidance notwithstanding, we’re not always on the route we think we’re on. Where you think you’re going isn’t necessarily where you’re going, and that can be a really, really good thing.
Yesterday I was in the car wailing about all the things that make the holidays difficult, and a lot of that has to do with navigating a birthday, Christmas, New Year’s, multiple family gatherings, five workdays, and holiday travel within a ten-day span. It’s too many endings and beginnings at once. It’s a lot of togetherness, and a lot of expectation, and a lot of taking stock. It’s a lot of “wow, there are some pretty big things I have not accomplished yet, and if I haven’t done them by now, I’m not sure I ever will,” which sneaks up and attacks you out of nowhere at birthday and New Year’s time. All of this at a time of year when it feels like there’s just no light in the sunlight, and I am walking home from work in the dark, and there are reminders everywhere that I am supposed to be filled with a childlike joy and wonder that I don’t feel right this minute.
So I’m sitting in church, and the rector is telling me, “If you think that this next year is going to be exactly like last year, then you need to prepare yourself for the possibility that you might be surprised.” When you open yourself up to possibilities, he says, who knows what’s next? There might be unexpected gifts, or unforeseen opportunities, or yes, even Christmas magic in your future. If you think that you know exactly what’s going to happen next, you need to unwrap your guarded heart.
He said that last part three times, kind of like he wanted to make sure we heard it.
Unwrap your guarded heart. I suspect that’s not an easy thing to do. But if I have a New Year’s resolution, I think that’ll have to be it. I’m open to suggestions. In in the meanwhile, I’m going to try to lighten up. There’s fun to be had this week, and there are cookies to be baked, and toasts to be made, and concerts to be attended. Oakwood is decked out with Christmas lights, and the holiday shopping is almost done, and it’s time to sit back and enjoy the people around me. C’mon out and join us. Cheers, y’all.