Earlier this week I was in a big-box retailer to purchase one particular item. I picked it up quickly and headed to the cash register. Because of the season, I had to wait in a line to complete my transaction, which gave me an opportunity to observe the folks waiting in line with me.
I notice how many were studying the impulse items that were strategically placed by the cash register, and how many ended up adding one or more of these to their purchases. I wondered how many of these would end up as part of someone else’s Christmas gifts, these last minute, unthought through purchases.
Our culture is a culture of impulsiveness, not only in this season where we may feel the need to purchase more and more items to demonstrate our commitment to another. But in this season, we are often more susceptible to impulsive action. It seems to me that many of us wear a heavy coat of guilt, or at least of obligation in this season that is full of activity—eating, drinking, partying, purchasing, etc. I wonder if we see before us a whole host of impulse items, be they party invitations or actual things to purchase, and find it hard to resist adding them to our already full plates.
As we add impulse items to our life’s “cart,” we find it harder and harder to push through each day. Think about when you’ve had an actual shopping cart with a bad wheel—the fuller you fill it, the more you notice the cart’s defect. And just as a store doesn’t let you roll the cart to your car for free, filling our life’s cart with impulse items costs us dearly. It adds stress to our lives and our finances as we feel compelled to snatch up every event, every item that creates an expectation for us to respond by giving ourselves to it.
When we live impulsively, filling our lives with the expectations that others have of us, there becomes less and less room for God, less quiet in order to hear God’s still, small voice sing over us. When we are no longer anchored in Christ, we are subject to the constantly changing expectations of our culture.
We cannot draw life from impulse items. They actually disconnect us from the source of life. They disconnect us from the Vine that is Christ. And just as a live Christmas tree holds up pretty well for much of the season, we look okay for a while. But a life lived according to the expectations of others will eventually leave us dry and dead inside. That evergreen in your living room, when cut off from its roots, is no longer alive, even if it remains green for several weeks.
Who you are, who I am, is enough. While others may not understand why we no longer respond to every expectation made of us, for us to remain alive and connected to the Vine, we have to acknowledge that we cannot be more than who God created us to be and that is sufficient because God has filled each of us with our own unique ability. The greatest gift we can give to God, and thus to the world, is to live the life God created us perfectly to live. We cannot live another’s life.
As Christ is born in us anew this season, may we draw from the life Christ has given us. May we give birth to our True Self this season, the self that is intimately connected to God.