It happens every year—the dreaded Christmas family photo and letter.
This is when my perfectionist tendencies rage and my family becomes afraid including their guardian angels and the mailman. While most family photos are full of vibrant colors, clean-shaven men in church clothes –not so with my family. We aren’t that picture perfect family. Perfectionism and anxiety chase me as I try to change the image of our family or make up for it by highlighting the absolute best of the year.
And if you check out this family photo of my extended family when I took a trip to Arizona, we look like the Shaw Mafia. No—really, there are comments flying all over Facebook and text messages. We’re usually dressed in black and believe target shooting is a sport on the holidays. Yet, I want to change who we are or at least hide the blemishes.
Anybody with me?
We scour the department stores for the perfect matching sweaters, hair bows, and black shiny shoes all the while our thoughts drift to the successes mentioned in last year’s letters pushing us to find the ultimate perfect picture setting. Anything to hide the flaws of our family right?
We then beg, blackmail, and bribe smiles from our family, coaxing (or screaming) through one more shot. Long after the photo is touched up and printed, we fervently pound the backspace key as the mailman delivers yet one more perfect family letter with sentences like:
“Six pounds of sprinkles and who knows just how much frosting but I managed to make all the cookies for my son’s Christmas program while Lucy scored perfect on her ACT She is well on her way to an IVY league school. Our family also had a fabulous time on our 10 day Disney Cruise.”
The more I find myself wanting to hide behind perfect smiles, the more I realize I’m a lot like Adam and Eve. You see after that first fateful bite, sin laced with shame entered the picture. For the first time, they knew what it was like to have the thoughts like:
“I am not good enough, I won’t be accepted and good Lord, I don’t want to show off my imperfections running around naked!”
As they hastily sewed leaves to cover their shame, I often wonder how many of us are doing just that with our Christmas letters?
But isn’t Christmas supposed to be the opposite? Aren’t we supposed to be celebrating our shortcomings because Jesus filled the gap for us? Yes, he died for our salvation but he also died to set us free from shame.
No where in the Bible does it say, “Though shalt not be accepted without a good Christmas letter or photo.”
Nor have I read anywhere, “Though shalt perform well as mother to be set free.”
No. No. NO.
What if you and I could focus on the meaning of this time of year instead of the shame we carry over the mistakes and mishaps our family has encountered. What if we could rid the shame and bare our real faces?
As moms, it’s our jobs to make our family look good. As moms, we’re the ones who sway others with our stories and words. But we’ve lost the ability to be real, to share our hurts and joy. Somehow we’ve lost our identity and we face the shame that our families aren’t perfect.
As I flew home from Arizona, one phrase leaped off the page of my Bible, breaking chains. Albeit my co-passengers were a little scared as I jumped up, shouting hallelujah in my black attire—tattoos all exposed. Some of the first words God said to his son Jesus weren’t about his mission, his future or performance. Nor was it how he smiled surrounded by his disciples. Instead, his first words shouting from heaven were
“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17
Little Mama, our letters, facebook statuses and pictures don’t need to be perfect. It takes boldness and bravery to embrace the imperfections. Yet, we are very aware of our shortcomings and feel like our perfect smiles and successes will make up for it. But that isn’t the truth is it? The truth is looking past our imperfections to the Creator who changed it all on the very first Christmas.
This is the time of year to celebrate humility… after all Jesus’ first bed was a smelly trough, full of barn animals and hay. No tinsel, no Christmas letters, no twinkly lights, just cold, hard earth surrounding his teen mom while angels in the heaven rejoiced.
As the letters fill your mailbox, I want you to smile and embrace the imperfections of who God says you are,
“This is my daughter…….with her I am well pleased.”