The looming holidays have made me contemplative about preparations. I've shared a little about the lack of inspiration I feel, perhaps due in part to the fact that, here in China, the western and Christian holidays are not forced into your every sensory receptacle like a fire hose letting loose in your face. Compared to some places in the world, it is quiet here.
I could just sit back and let them roll by without much fanfare or ado. But that seems rather sad to me, and then I look around and I have all these little people who I want to grow up strong with traditions and memories and sugar plums dancing in their heads. There is that. But I am also drawn out of my reverie by a sense, a belief really, that the holidays are here to help me, to bring some sense of order and wonder to my everyday life. There is of course, a tendency to run around making the holidays all about us creating something, some event or atmosphere. As I think about it though, and muse on the wisdom of others before me, I am beginning to think they are more about bringing us to a place of orientation.
Last year, I experienced a bit of this with the season of Lent that leads to Easter Sunday. I enjoyed the Lent journey so much, but the consummation of that preparation was something that had little outward flair. Yet it brought such peace and joy and worship in spite of its humble circumstances. This, I think is what I am drawn towards as I look to these upcoming days and preparations. I want to re-orient. I need to start preparing, and in doing so, experience what all the ages of Followers before me have taken part in, the Holidays as a means of grace to help us remember, to help us rejoice, to help us be together in our re-orientation.
Yesterday, I walked home from the market, one hand heavy with small, juicy oranges and fresh vegetables for a salad, the other clinging intermittently to the chubby fingers of my two year old. She wanted to stop at every object of interest: the shriveling berries poking out from roadside bushes, construction cones with hollow tops, curbs that begged to be jumped off of and scampered up again, cigarettes flung carelessly on the pavement. I found myself thinking about how irksome it is for me to try to walk home with this child. I wandered in my mind to all the articles or books I've read recently that seem to promote this faddish idea of "being in the moment" and being grateful for the present. I think this way of thinking has some merit of course, but as I struggled with the very moment I was in, I wondered at how often it falls short. You can tell yourself until you are blue in the face to just "be present" and know that all you have right now is all you need, but am I the only one who is unable to do that moment by moment, day after day?
It brought me back to orientation. Being thankful or grateful inherently implies an acknowledgment towards something or someone. I think this is where C.S. Lewis would chime in with some eloquent discussion of the way this phenomenon in our morality points to the fact that we as human beings are created with an Orientation to Someone. And this, I believe is where thankfulness and gratefulness and being in the moment can and must lead us if they are to do us any real good.
In my thanksgiving, I am led to worship. In my remembering, I am led to worship. In my delighting in festivals and food and joyous community and all that they lead me to think on, I am led to worship. And worship, my friends, is it not the one thing that orients us the most? Whatever we turn to, wherever we place our expectations, our hopes, our praise and our thanks, that is what we worship. Whether it is the Earth, ourselves, materialism, feminism, political activism, or any other ism, we orient our hopes and desires to that thing. My worship is always in need of re-orientation, because I am disoriented. I am always turning my face to other things.
Which is why the holidays, they are a gift... the opportunity year after year, in the midst of our day to day, to Re-turn it back around.