I'm a woman, which means I get irrational at times. (Men do too, but in different ways.) And yesterday, I kind of broke down.
See, over the last several weeks, I've had a series of mild illnesses. A chest cold, which is lingering. A stomach bug, not serious but unpleasant, and my most recent acquisition, a sinus cold. On top of that, I've been trying to get back into my exercise routine. I've slacked on it for a year now, and I don't like feeling sluggish. Basically, I feel physically beat.
So by the time I got home from work (late because of the roads,) there was a foot of snow on my thirty feet of driveway and 50+ feet of sidewalk, plus a four-foot-high barrier of snow from the snow plows between me and my house. So I parked my car on the street, cracked a joke about the situation at my neighbors across the street who were chipping their way into their own house, plowed through the snow and started digging.
And as I dug, my body felt weaker and weaker. I was filled with a sudden knowledge of my own weakness and helplessness. I felt utterly alone. I started crying like an idiot. I'm very good at silently crying, so I basically just sounded like I had a sniffly nose (which I have anyways.) But as I looked around at my neighbors' houses on either side, who had gotten to their sidewalks faster than I had, thought about the grundle of work waiting for me inside the house (if I made it that far,) and looked at the mountain of snow I had barely moved, I just broke down. And I hated myself for it.
I'm born of stubborn stock. When faced with a physical challenge, I generally set my chin, grit my teeth and attack it. But I was at my end. I hurt so bad. My hand started sending warning shots of pain up my arm, my back was already hurting, and silent tears were rolling down my face and freezing my cheeks. I felt like an idiot, but at least I was subtle enough about it that my kids (freed from the car and playing happily in the yard full of snow) didn't even notice.
And as I cried and shoveled, I prayed. I didn't ask for anything, just poured out my misery to my God. Almost before I knew it, one of my neighbors from across the street who I barely knew other than dropping cookies off at their house every once in awhile, was standing there and asking me if he could help.
As I always do, I demurred, told him I was almost done (though I clearly wasn't) and that I was okay. But he didn't take no for an answer. He merely said, "Are you sure? Because I have nothing better to do," and dug in without waiting for another answer from me. Then his mom joined us. And we were done in a matter of minutes, me babbling thanks to them profusely.
In the end, I had enough energy to build a snowman with my girls. And though my house is still a never-ending font of chores, and I'm still sick, and I still won't spend Christmas with my kids this year, somewhere in my heart I feel a little less helpless and a little less alone.
That is Christmas to me. My fondest hope is to be that for someone else. To leave enough room in my life to be able to help someone else who knows how to silently cry. That is what I feel when I imagine the life of Jesus with its sorrow, grit, despair and loneliness.
Because last night, in every scrape of shovels on concrete, I heard angels singing.