Invitation to Festivus

Job opened his mouth and cursed his day.
Job spoke out and said:
“Perish the day on which I was born,
the night when they said, ‘The child is a boy!’
Why did I not perish at birth,
come forth from the womb and expire?”—Job 3:1-3

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One of the prime tactics of the Opposition Voice is what I call an “Invitation to Festivus.”  Festivus was initially a holiday invented by a character on the comedy sitcom Seinfeld to celebrate the “airing of grievances.”  The idea became so popular that it was taken on in real life and now has formal recognition and its own date, December 23rd, where it is billed as an “anti-Christmas.”  While it is celebrated for the most part as a joke, and to be enjoyed as such, actual Opposition Voice invitations are another matter. It is particularly fitting that these invitations be recognized as in opposition to the gifts and joy that Christ brings.

These invitations have a way of arriving when I am about to begin a worthwhile activity, or even more frequently, when I sit down to pray.  As I try to quiet myself, provocations for anger rise to the surface.  Wrongs in the world, wrongs in my life, people that have failed me or failed at what I think they should be.  “Someone is wrong on the internet” and so my mind starts composing a long letter-to-the-editor rebuttal.  “Someone did me wrong” and my mind conjures up vivid, detailed video footage of the event and every word that was said, or that should have been.

Recently it was a woman who rather outrageously and falsely accused me of doing something wrong.  I was in this particular case quite innocent, and while the matter itself was paltry and insignificant, her words continued to smolder in my mind.  I do not always receive just criticism with grace, but false accusations, even minor ones, invite my ego to a duel onto death.  My face grows hot as the resentment burns to a dangerous level.  Instead of defending myself at the time however, I simply said, rather too quietly “That’s not true” and we awkwardly ended the conversation.

But the furnace has been stoked and the fire continues to rage, as my mind thinks of all the things I could and should have said.  Some eloquent if lengthy depositions in my defense; some could be summed up in four letters.

We’ve all been there.  And that’s the problem—I was there—more than twenty-eight years ago.  This is not a new or recent grievance; it is one conjured up from a stash of hoarded unpleasant memories that were never properly put in the trash.

The self-pity party, with help from my imagination, has been upgraded to a gala.  And then a new guest of honor comes crashing in: Shame.  What is wrong with you?  Why are you so insecure that you are bothered by decades-old criticism?  Why couldn’t you have spoken up for yourself—why are you always such a coward?  Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

How to respond?

The first line of defense is to recognize that most of these invitations are junk mail and require no response at all.  Simply tear them up and put them in the paper trash.  Many of these grievances disappear as soon as they are acknowledged as temptations or distractions.

Second—if that doesn’t work, and it seems to come with a message that requires something more, speak God’s love into it.  In the scenario above, this would take the form of forgiveness:  forgiving the woman who judged me unfairly, and then forgiving myself for a) my weakness at the time and b) my weaknesses now, in the recalling.  Maybe even going a step further and saying “I love you!” by name to BOTH parties.  I realize this sounds remarkably cheesy, but the fact that in practice it is so difficult to do suggests it may be more helpful than we realize.

Third—sometimes God lets us know that this has come to signal something a little more serious, and we are invited to look at what the invitation is really about.  Why does it bother me?  Is there an underlying wound that God wants to heal?

If this wound is not apparent, we should not worry about digging it up.  Sometimes, however, God is allowing it to rise to the surface because it is time to bring it to light and to heal it.  If that is the case, let this be a subject for your prayer time!

It is never helpful to attend a party hosted by the Opposition.  But God Himself loves to hear whatever is on our mind, and He is happy to let us air our grievances to Him in all of their rancor and bitterness.  Let Him be the host.  When He does, there is always a gift exchange, with God being the more generous giver!

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