Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Traditions and Tiny Obsessions

-- Every year since My Tony and I got married, we have bought a new Christmas ornament . Most of them commemorate some event during the year (like 9/11), some family joke or shared experience that we want to remember. My favorite part of decorating (which I haven't even started yet) is putting the now large collection of ornaments on the tree. Now, my kids will tell you, this wasn't always so much fun . . . FOR THEM. I used to have this THING. You know, a THING, a hangup, an obsession. I was a teeny bit crazed about the necessity (in my mind) to put the ornaments on the tree, one by one, in chronological order. To be fair (and I KNOW you want to be fair) I started this FROM THE BEGINNING when there was only one ornament, then two, then three, and so on. However, by the time my kids were 12 and 7 and each of them had personal ornaments too and the number had grown to more than 25 ornaments, my little ritual had outgrown itself. It no longer served a good purpose. It had become a burden. I had. to let. it go. Initially it wasn't easy for me, because I liked the sequence to be a walk down memory lane, IN ORDER. But as soon as I let go of my need to do things 'my way' everyone else was able to enjoy the process again. Maybe we didn't do them in order, but we still danced and skipped our way through the memories of each year's ornament and the fun was restored. For so long I had confused the form of HOW we put the ornaments on the tree with the SUBSTANCE of the memory-sharing. When I finally realized that the form was actually hindering the substance, I could let it go. I am learning in other things to make myself stop and distinguish between the form and the substance. If the form doesn't serve the substance, the form is the thing to go. Sometimes we have very strong ideas about how things SHOULD be done, and there's nothing wrong with traditions and rituals. In fact, they can be very important and a rich part of our family's experience together. We just have to be willing to notice and adjust if one of those traditions or rituals becomes more of a burden than a joy. Tradition for tradition's sake is empty--tradition that illustrates a beautiful timeless truth is priceless. God Himself designed and gave traditions and rituals, feasts and festivals to His people as a way to remember and celebrate the milestones of their life with Him and to pass the stories of His care for them from generation to generation. "This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD -a lasting ordinance." Exodus 12:14 NIV These are good things! They ARE good things as long as the traditions are treated as vessels to carry truth forward and as long as the traditions don't become more important than the stories they tell. I pray that we all will cherish our old traditions and maybe make some new ones this Christmas and most of all that the traditions will only carry glitter off His glory.
Are there any traditions or tiny obsessions that might need to be adjusted in your family? Do you have a story of a ritual you've changed and the difference it made to your family? I'd love to hear your stories!
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