I often have regrets after Christmas. I will regret spending too much time on the unimportant but momentarily critical noise rather than absorbing in the cackling of my many grandchildren, indulging in one of those, “hey dad, what if…..” conversations, hanging with friends, holding the hand of my wife, etc. Many of those regrets stem from not noticing, not listening and not seeing.
I regret cutting a conversation short because I become bored with it and wanted to move on to something else. I regret times when I was more concerned about my diet than indulging in someone’s loved baked cookies begging me to simply “try one.” I regret worrying about the next year while not enjoying the now moment. I regret not saying “thank you” enough. I regret seeing the next item on my calendar as a duty and dread rather than a God-given opportunity. I regret being too busy, too worried, too anxious and too distracted. I regret spending too much, saving too little and giving carefully and the greatest regret of them all…not drinking enough eggnog (what other time of year do you drink that stuff, honestly).
Many truly important things simply fade away into the background, as if they become invisible. Christmas morphs into ChristMISS.
I watched an interview of an actress by the name of Viola Davis, who enjoyed a successful career in television, film and the stage. I remember her from her role as Aibileen Clark in the screen adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s novel “The Help.” Viola Davis commented that she had grown up in abject poverty and made the statement that when you are poor you are invisible.
I thought about that word invisible. I remember as a child thinking that if I could be a superhero one of the greatest powers would be to have the ability to be invisible. We all dreamed how fun that would be. I am not exactly sure why it seemed so exciting. Perhaps the idea of being able to never get caught, enjoy the element of surprise, or simply be a part of something that you were not invited to.
Charles Dickens uses Ebenezer Scrooge’s dream sequence in much the same way. The invisible Ebenezer has the opportunity to watch the full spectrum of his life and that perspective acts as a catalyst for a complete transformation; Scrooge is born again.
I am an adult now, and yes, there are times the idea of being invisible seems incredibly appealing. I actually have a “cave” I visit sometimes to be invisible. The cave is a place my mind takes me to when I want to be invisible. I like my little cave. However, to be completely frank, I do not like being invisible.
The idea of not being noticed has less to do with ego than it does with feeling insignificant. God created me, and He created me for a purpose. My life is significant, and I never go unnoticed by my Father… this is the Christmas story, isn’t it? The child that was invisible to the world was visible to the Father.
Therefore, I was challenged by that word “invisible,” and realized just how many people I pass each and every day who may be feeling invisible. I have the opportunity to simply notice them… to make them visible.
I asked myself the question, “what if every day I simply looked for the opportunity to shed light on one invisible person?” Think about it; the person who serves you at a restaurant, the co-worker in the meeting next to you, the individual who delivers your FedEx, the person on the other side of the counter, telephone, e-mail, text… we are surrounded with invisible people.
I cherish the fact that Christ modeled this time and time again. Frankly, each of the disciples were invisible people; each person healed was invisible; each person that is listed as part of the “crowd” was invisible. However, Jesus had this incredible desire to not keep them that way. Jesus has asked you and me to be His ambassadors on this earth, and perhaps part of my calling is to simply make the invisible visible. Imagine what a smile does, a kind word, a look in the eye, a word of encouragement, a thank you, a gift, a phone call or just a simple act that says, “right now, you are important and visible.”
Christmas and its many surrounding festivities have the potential to mask a hidden realty. Please don’t misunderstand me. Christmas is a lot of fun. What other time of year do you get to put a tree inside your house, sing carols and eat such a variety of stuff in so many wonderful shapes (including little houses with people in them)?
However, it does seem to mask the reality of the pain that so many of us live with. I can’t help but notice that this time of year seems to pressure people that are suffering to “simply keep it down because your pain interrupts my festivities.” Pain that is asked to take a hiatus is often pain such as the loss of a loved one, the need for a job, the inability to pay bills, my health, a divorce, a chronic sin, a body that is not working, a struggling loved one and the all too present, regret.
The “ha ha ha” and “joy joy joy” and “shop shop shop” just seem to remind us of the loss. The overall impression may be that we feel that no one really wants to hear it. The voice in our head says, “we know you have pain, but just not now.” So we suffer quietly and too often, alone. We become invisible and so does everyone else.
Therefore, as we enjoy this Christmas season, with our parties, gifts, feasts, family members, church services, pageants and some good down time, perhaps God is asking each of us to be superheroes, but not invisible ones… our secret power is to make the invisible visible. I find that when I use my God-given secret power, I avail myself to becoming a pain reliever, a guide towards True Hope, an example of someone whose identity is sourced in God’s identity. Perhaps, I will be able to look back on Christmas and have a few less regrets.
Stephan N. Tchividjian is the president and founder of the National Christian Foundation South Florida. Visit southflorida.ncfgiving.com to learn more.