"Let me see what she wrote."
The Kid nudged me to the side so she could see the screen. I moved over, somewhat reluctant to believe that the 'girl' I'd been chatting with for the past few days was not a Christian woman at all. The Kid shook her head as she scrolled down our conversation on MSN.
"Oh, Steve. C'mon! It's so obvious."
The woman onscreen was asking me to receive two boxes of money and than send her some. It sounded fishy, but I was still struggling to wrap my mind around the idea that I'd spent at least two nights chatting with some Chinese man trying to swindle me. The Kid knew better. She told me what to write, and within two minutes, the chat was over, and "Sarah" was gone.
I thanked Keti, my twenty-year-old roommate (a.k.a. The Kid), and went outside for some air. It didn't bother me that it took a twenty year old to help me figure out something I should've figured out myself. We all had blind spots, especially during the holiday season. And I wanted to believe the best of people. Despite a bad experience, I wasn't about to give that up. That wasn't the reason I needed some air.
Water dripped from the eaves as I stepped onto the porch. After one of the fiercest snowstorms in the city's history, we'd been hit by a mild spell, and the piles of melting snow dripped and dissolved into puddles at the end of the driveway. The snowman we'd built was smeared with dirt and threatened to topple over. I gazed at the clouded sky and than turned to the two families laughing in the street next door. The holiday season was in full swing.
Christmas is a great time for family and friends and couples. It is also the most difficult for many others, especially those who are single or alone. For the past two weeks, I'd been somewhat addicted to these dating sites. Oh, I'm not sure that I actually expected to meet someone, but after spending yet another night watching friends and strangers hug and celebrate the season, it was difficult to slide into my bed in my little room without wondering what it'd be like to be with someone. To have someone next to me. It seemed like it'd been a long time since that had been a reality in my life. This last fiasco had only proved the obvious. Despite my friends, despite my family, I was looking for something more.
I leaned against the cold brick and looked into the clouded night, trying hard not to sigh. Would it always be this way, Lord? I stood there for a long time, listening to the drip of water, the receding laughter of the families next door, and thinking about yet another holiday season alone. For obvious reasons, I knew that I'd made a mistake this past month. It was a subtle thing, but it was something inevitable to all of us. I'd fallen into the "if only" trap. I'd started looking at the people around me, and thinking, "if only."
If only I had a wife, I'd be happy. If only I had a family, I'd be happy.
And while those things were something I desired deeply, I knew that the 'if only' trap was a black hole for real happiness. We poured the contents of our life into it in the hopes of something greater, without realizing the things we'd been given. Three days before Christmas, I'd allowed myself to be led down a road that only led to more pain.
I strolled to the end of the driveway. The family next door called out a greeting and I waved back. Christmas was supposed to be a time to be thankful for what God had given us. It was hard though, not to think about our dreams. The more I thought about it, the more frustrated I became.
"It's not fair, God. Why am I alone?"
Images danced around in my imagination, and slowly faces began to appear before me. My family. My friends. My housemates. And while I longed for a wife, I'd spent many bitter holidays locked into a relationship that had been so unhappy as to make my current situation pale by comparison. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that while I would always hope for that special someone, I'd been blessed with a life that was really quite wonderful.
Perfect, no. But then, life wasn't supposed to be perfect. Rather, it was a journey, a long journey. Better to keep the perspective of a long life, than to heed to the impatient voice of a world that told us we just needed one more thing to be happy.
For so long I'd been raised in a culture that rarely distinguished between want and need. It did, in fact, do whatever it could to blur the lines between the two. But as I began to thank God for all that He'd given me, I realized that I had everything I needed... and so much more. And whether it was spending too much time on dating sites or panging for that new car, there was too much about life that was good to spend time chasing after the wind.
This Christmas, remember that while there will be always be things we desire, the real joy is found in appreciating all that we have. We may not all have a spouse or the perfect spouse, we may not have the family we wanted or a family at all, and our friends may not seem to be the friends we'd always hoped for. But Christmas is a time for second chances; it is a time when we remember that God gave us a second chance. When He showed us just how much He loved us.
My prayer is that this season we will remember not what we've lost, but we've gained. That we'll remember the 'if only' trap is just that, a trap. And that while we've been blessed in so many ways, Christmas is the time when we remember the locus is not on what we've received, but what we give.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
P.S. Special love to my housemates and friends this Christmas. Love you all. :)