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Spiritual resiliency: How to think about the holidays

  • Published
  • By Deputy Wing Chaplain, Maj. Mike Shannon
  • 509th Bomb Wing
Have you ever noticed that we are called "human beings" and not "human doings"? It is something worth thinking about. It seems we are constantly doing and doing more and more. As we approach the holidays I would like to encourage you think more about your being and less about your doing to relieve some of the stress of this time of year. Here are some things to think about:

1. Be Thankful. Studies show that people who are thankful/grateful exhibit less stress in their lives and, thus, seem to have a much more enjoyable and longer life than those who are not. On the spiritual fitness side of the house this would suggest that we be thankful to God. The Psalmist reminds us, "I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High" (Psalm 7.17 ESV). It is good and appropriate to look outside of ourselves and give thanks where thanks are due.

2. Be Realistic. I have two points in mind here. First, be realistic about your expectations...especially your expectations of the perfect family setting without any conflict or disagreements and/or the perfect holiday; where you have the perfect table settings or perfect tree and all the decorations laid out like in one of those home magazines. For most of us...it just won't happen. So relax and lower your expectations and enjoy life as it unfolds before you. So what if the turkey did not turn out the way you wanted! It's okay...life will go on. Use the mishaps and imperfections to make memories.

Second, be realistic about your expenditures. Too many people strive for what they believe will be the perfect holiday, perfect gifts, and perfect moment and they're willing to pay any price to get it. Unfortunately, they can't afford it. Then in January they are stressed trying to pay off that which they couldn't really afford and only to find out that all that money spent never really paid off. So be realistic about what you can afford. Life is more than the toys you can buy.

3. Be in the Moment. Dr. Richard Carlson states, "We allow past problems and future concerns to dominate our present moments, so much so that we end up anxious, frustrated, depressed and hopeless." I would like to encourage you to take time to be with people you love and care about. Absorb the moments you have with them. Make lasting memories of that moment. The Apostle Paul reminds us of the importance of memories, "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you" (Philippians 1.3 ESV). My daughter is away from home attending university in Virginia. I can't believe how fast she has grown. It seems like she grew up in just a blink of the eye. I often find myself reflecting back on some the moments we had together. Don't let these special people and these special moments pass you by...be intentional about making memories with those whom you love. May you one day look back and say with the Apostle Paul, "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you."

4. Be Patient. Gordon MacDonald, in his book "Ordering Your Private World", tells a great story about a scientist about 70 years ago who was on an expedition in a portion of an unmapped area of Africa. "On the first three days of their trek, they achieved an unexpected rate of speed, which put them substantially ahead of schedule. The scientist was elated. But all that changed on the fourth day when he arose from his tent and discovered that no one was moving. In fact he was told that the African support team intended to sit the day out. When he asked why, he was told that they had decided they'd been moving much too fast and that it was time to stop and let their souls catch up with their bodies."

The Hebrew idiom for the word patience means literally, "long of nose." This is sometimes translated as "slow to anger" or "longsuffering." Sometimes with all the hustle and bustle of the holidays we can live life at a very fast pace and easily lose our patience; then we can become very short tempered and angry. Proverbs 19.11 puts it this way, "Good sense make one slow to anger [literally, "long nosed"] and it his glory to overlook an offense." When you feel as though you are becoming less patient with the people around you it sometimes just makes good sense to STOP and take a day to let your soul catch up with your body to get life back in perspective.

5. Be Here. The Judeo-Christian worldview holds that each person is created in the image of God. Because of this, we believe each person has intrinsic value and worth. They are not of value because of what they do or can do for us, but of value just because of who they are as a person. Just because they live, breathe and have their being. They are human beings (not doings) created in God's image.

Unfortunately far too many people are devalued and de-humanized, thus, feel as though they are at the bottom of the barrel of significance. These same individuals may think because their lives have little value or significance it might be better to just end their lives. If you happened to feel this way; I'm here to tell you that you are important and valuable. I have been in too many situations where I have had to minister to the loved ones who are left behind with the hurt and pain of the results of suicide. They always express how much they loved the person. How much they need and want that person. The truth is that we need you HERE. Your family needs you here, your friends need you here, we, your military family, need you to be here. You...each of you...are of great value!

So let me encourage you to take some time this holiday season to think about your well being...its part of what it means to be human after all.