It wasn’t but a few years ago that we received many Christmas letters. And those letters were stories of perfection. Perfect families leading perfect lives with perfect jobs and perfect children and a perfect faith all wrapped up in a perfect bow. These saccharine stories are no longer frequently sent as the annual update in a Christmas letter. Instead, we receive daily updates on Facebook.
In those distant days, you’d receive the glowing Christmas letters recounting in excruciating detail how perfect everyone’s lives were. How “Bob” just got promoted and will be traveling extensively all over the world (!) as he learns he has become absolutely indispensible to the success of his company. How his stock options have multiplied, now affording them a new cottage in the south of France (can you believe that homes there cost more than $1000 a square foot!). How “Joan’s” business has blossomed too, yet she is still able to work in a soup kitchen every Friday! And how they are both just so busy!! And their children—oh, their perfect children with perfect teeth and perfect jobs and perfect marriages and perfect dogs—bring more joy to their lives than they thought possible! Oh, joy!
Of course, we all know these tales are lies. And we know this because our own Christmas letters are lies—truncated and sanitized versions of our lives, so that we can appear that we “have it all together,” that we “have made it,” that we are “blessed.” And sometimes (frequently?) we have lied to ourselves so much that we really believe our own Christmas tales! Ha!
It is only through self-deceit that we can think so. Nothing like lying to yourself, admiring yourself, and adding a few humble brags to look more “spiritual.” But it’s all a joke, of course. We are still weak and needy. We are still chasing after the wind (Ecclesiastes 1:14), thinking that even if we don’t have this perfect life, perhaps—just perhaps—we can convince others that we do, and maybe we can convince ourselves.
It never works. We know, deep down, that God sees. And we ourselves know, deep down, what is really there—the nagging disappointment, the emptiness of activities, that peculiar void. We keep those fears suppressed. It’s taken a huge amount of our time and a huge investment in distraction to suppress those failures, inadequacies, and sins (both sins of omission and commission). The repeated “missing of the mark.” The fear of death, of failure, of insignificance, of missing out.
Perhaps the best “New Year’s Resolution” is to confess all these things, to confess our dishonesty, to confess our attempts to satisfy ultimate desires of union with God with a pathetic “making of mud-pies in the gutter.”
We are far too easily pleased.