The Christmas tree is a fire hazard now. The wrapping paper and boxes are strewn about. What remains of the special Christmas morning breakfast is littered throughout the kitchen. The kids are still half-dazed and crazed from the morning merriment. Dad is relaxing with his iPad, catching up on the news. And mom… well, this mom, looks around in dread.
It happens to some degree every year for me. I begin a slow but sure descent into resentfulness. I begin to think about what it will mean to clean up this disaster called Christmas. If I don’t start now, it will only get worse. And so I begin. I start with the paper and boxes. I ask the kids to help. Thankfully, they help a little. I move over to the kitchen and begin to clean up what remains of sticky cinnamon rolls and egg nog. I look over at my happy family and still the gratefulness of the morning is keeping resentfulness at bay.
But then a few days later, the time comes to do the major clean up. I begin to de-Christmas my home. I dread this multi-hour event. I try to get the kids to help out. And this time, I am met with resistance. My descent begins. With each passing hour, it builds. The voices from my heart begin to speak to myself their complaints. Why do I bother decorating? Christmas is too much work for moms! We spin our wheels and run ourselves ragged to make the day special for everyone, and then we have all the work of clean up too on the tail end! Shopping, decorating, stringing lights, baking, cooking, gingerbread house making, wrapping, taping, more shopping, more cooking, cleaning, bow making, more wrapping, deal finding, hanging and filling stockings, shipping, and now cleaning too!
The resentfulness is thick now!
I am afraid that I may even launch on my family a string of guilt-inducing, manipulative comments that I will later regret. I have done it before. What feels like a blessed release of anger erodes into guilt and shame. And this year, I do not want to go there! What is my resentful heart to do?
Applying the Gospel to Everyday Life
I find a quiet hiding place in my home, and fall into a posture of prayer. I want to cry. I am exhausted and I am angry. But I am also fighting my desire to allow my heart to spill out on my family, whom I deeply love.
I know that I need to apply the gospel, but where do I start? I counsel others in gospel application, but applying the gospel to myself is always a foggier road to travel.
Think, Keri, think! Start with your anger. What is underneath it? Why are you really upset?
Hmmm. Fog begins to clear as I make my way into the ugliness of my heart. I am angry because I have to do the work while my family enjoys all the benefits and it is just not fair! I don’t want to do all of this work alone! I want to sit around and be free to enjoy the benefits of Christmas too!
What is underneath all of this mess? Self-righteousness to be sure! Idolatrous desires for comfort are present as well. I want to be served, rather than serve. Lots of ugliness is surfacing now, and I am slowly humbled by my sin. My anger is subsiding as I see my own sin.
But gospel application does not end with the sight of our sin. We also have a Savior. I want to apply the gospel to myself in a way that causes true repentance and joy. I want to love Christ more as a result of this little transaction with Him on this December morning.
Gospel application is not easy. Again, I must think hard to clear the haze. How do I apply the gospel to a heart that is mad that I have done all of the work, while my family is free to enjoy all of the benefits? How does Christ enter into this picture?
Light floods in in an almost immediate and blinding way. Work and freedom are the themes of my grumbling heart. Work and freedom are inherent themes within the gospel. My Jesus did all of the work too so that I could freely enjoy all of the benefits! I enjoy all of the free-grace benefits of the grueling, wrath-bearing work that He alone accomplished at the cross. He did not ask me to share in the crushing weight and work of bearing my sin.
No, He did it all!
Because of Him, I get to cease from my work. I am free to simply enjoy the benefits of all that He accomplished. And that is NOT FAIR! The great exchange of His work for my freedom is the epitome of injustice! I now don’t want fair in my situation; I want grace! And it is grace that I have received… then, at the great exchange, and now.
And I am humbled! I am thankful! I am freshly astounded at the lavish beauty of Christ’s work on my behalf! I thank God for His grace towards me and I want to extend that same grace to my family! I want to be like my Jesus who willingly served me! I want to serve in joy because I understand that the ultimate injustice took place 2,000 years ago for my most ultimate freedom and joy.
Changed by Gospel Grace
My heart is changed by gospel grace. I can get up now and finish the clean-up with a new heart. I can serve my family with a grateful heart. My heart has moved from the heat of anger to the warmth of grace, and it has motivated me to love and serve from joy.
Ironically and yet beautifully, my husband finds me later after noticing all of my work. He says, “I wish you would have told me you were cleaning. I would have loved to help you.” I can authentically smile back and enjoy the rest of the day with my family because… “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1-4).