‘Tis the season to be jolly, right? I remember talking with a friend once in late October about considering online dating, and she advised me to consider waiting until until January. I had expressed to her numerous times before that online dating didn’t feel like a natural fit for me. “Why wait ’til January?” I’d asked. She told me, “Just wait until after the holiday season and see if you feel the same way. And don’t be surprised if you change your mind.”
Don’t be surprised. Up until that point, I hadn’t really considered the toll past holiday seasons had taken on me. I blissfully entered in, singing along to the cheery tunes, welcoming the decorations and the lights, and was suddenly surprised to find myself carrying this extra heavy weight I now call lonely heart. The holiday season (I count as the day after Halloween through New Year’s) can be rough to navigate as a single.
Parties, movies and television, family – all often center around couple-related activities and family oriented traditions. Calendaring a long list of RSVPs for one to these events can usher in an empty feeling. There are two ways I’ve reacted to a visit from lonely heart in the past. One was to curl up on the couch whenever possible, consume a large quantity of salty sweet stuff, and watch a sappy romantic comedy movie marathon. Nothing wrong with that right?
Well…for me it didn’t solve the empty feeling problem, and sometimes it took me further into loneliness. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m all for planning my 38th viewing of Pride and Prejudice. I just realized somewhere along the way that I better have a pulse on what that might do to my unprepared heart as a single during holiday season.
Counteracting these feelings is as simple as being prepared for them. The more we’re aware these feelings are likely to crop up, the better prepared we are to combat them. The second way I’ve learned to react is to think of the kind of gift I want to give.
Spiritual gift or white elephant? Recently we talked in our single’s group about the importance of showing up to Church ready to use our spiritual gifts to encourage people on Sunday morning. We came up with a little saying, You’ve got to be present to present your present. Cheesy but true. It’s also true every day of the year and the holidays are no exception.
I admit this has not always been the case for me. I have shown up to events halfhearted and hurting in my singleness, ready to grab a piece of fudge and head straight for the quietest corner. Some nights I did just that. I refer to those as my white elephant gift offerings. I may have found a little smile to offer up, but my best self was not on display. Each and every holiday event I say ‘yes’ to, I can challenge my heart to show up and be present, while bringing the gifts of my joy and interest in others.
This includes seeking out conversations with everyone: couples, family members who ask about your dating life, (including the ones holding babies) – always with the express purpose of encouraging them, investing in their lives, and having joy in doing it. That last part can be hard, but it’s something to strive for. Especially when we give our full attention to the real Gift.
The Real Gift. The One that keeps on giving – Christ. It’s His season. Do we keep that in the forefront of our minds? For the Christian this is an amazing time to celebrate the ushering in of the One who came to die for all our sins, to seek and save the lost. His birthday, the pinnacle of the season, is a reminder that those who put their hope in Him alone for salvation receive the free gift of eternal life. He is the Christmas morning gift – the best of all.
When we find ourselves sliding down the slippery slope of the holiday season, wishing and hoping for what we don’t have, let’s steer our minds and hearts in a new direction. As the days grow shorter and darker, look to the Light. That’s Jesus. Draw your comfort, strength, and worth from His Source. Pretty soon you’ll be gifting your friends and relatives just by your joy-filled reflection.
Renee is a single Christian woman who serves as mentor staff in the college ministry at her local church. She works as a literacy coach for a school district in San Ramon, California. Her hobbies include: boating, wake boarding, Zumba, riding roller coasters, and watching classic movies.