Saturday, December 8, 2018

Advent Downsizing

I am learning anew that transition times can be very hard. During the first week of December, my brother and I moved our dad from the independent-living section of Blakeford retirement center to the nursing-home wing. Dad has no use of his legs any more and is wholly dependent on someone else even to get up from a chair.

I know many readers have dealt with such transitions already. And I cannot overlook that since last Advent, some families of our church coped with transitions more severe than that as they have committed loved ones to God's eternity.

I have learned that these kinds of transitions mean “downsizing.” When mom and dad moved from their house to a Blakeford apartment in 2009, they downsized. When we moved dad from the apartment to a single room, downsizing again. But not only of things. When my mother died in 2015, it was a different, but very real, kind of downsizing also.

And you know what? Downsizing is not appealing. It is not fun. It means saying goodbye to things and sometimes persons loved.

And yet . . .

Downsizing can also make us focus on essentials. Downsizing can bring clarity. When our eldest, a U.S. Marine lance corporal, spent 2005’s Christmas in combat service in Iraq, Cathy and I had a clear picture of what Christmas meant for us. It was not the stuff. Of course, we gave and received gifts and celebrated with our other two children and family, but it was crystal clear to us — and has remained so 13 years hence — that all we really have in this life is one another, not things.

The book of Job tells of his fabulous wealth — all lost, his children killed, even his health ruined, his body wracked with pain. Yet he merely says, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart.” It took me years to see that Job was only half right. Naked we are born, but we die clothed in the love we gave away.

To move on to Christian perfection in this life is to downsize. Downsize habits that block us from holiness. Downsize that which inhibits our love of God and our neighbors. Downsize our egos to make room for God. Downsize the falsehood that getting our way is all it takes to make us happy.

Thankfully, the upsizing is greater than the down. We upsize in gratitude. We upsize in meaningfulness. We upsize in patience, in peacefulness, in joyfulness, in kindness, self-control, gentleness, and so many other ways.

But first comes the downsizing, so let Advent be a time to downsize for the sake of the Gospel!

Merry Christmas to all, and God bless us, every one!