The blackness of depression can make even Christmas seem dark.
But God wants to lift that depression and set people free.
He wants the light of Jesus to shine in our hearts.
Here is a fiction story about a woman depressed at Christmastime until she heard the words of a Carol with the ears of her heart.
“Christmas again,” Dorine mumbled, staring out the window. Huge snowflakes fluttered down. Such a sight used to fill her heart with gladness. Now she struggled against the darkness threatening to engulf her.
Sighing, she picked a gray hair off her baggy black sweater. How could she possibly handle Christmas preparations this year?
Christmas used to be my favorite time of year. Pete would come in covered with snow, laughing as the children crowded past him eager to tell me, “Mommy, look! We got a tree— Daddy chopped it down!”
Dorine turned from the window and slumped into a chair, continuing her reverie.
Lisa and Kirk unwrapped decorations with giggles and hung them in clumps on the tree. The house was filled with love as we decorated the house and baked cookies together. The children made each day seem like a gift. Life was simpler. Peaceful.
What happened? Why?
Dorine dragged herself into the kitchen to wash dishes. A scene from five years ago became vivid: Lisa, who’d married right after high school, was spending this last Christmas at home before moving across the nation with her military husband. “Mom,” Lisa asked, setting the Christmas centerpiece on the table, “where’s Dad?”
“Oh, I’m sure he’ll be here soon, dear. He’s probably doing some last minute shopping.” Dorine lifted her best china out of the hutch, thinking of Pete’s complaint a week earlier. “Guess these kids don’t need us anymore, now that Lisa’s married and Kirk has his driver’s license. He’s too busy to even go skiing with me.”
Kirk, indeed, seldom spent time with his parents anymore, but for good reasons. His car wash job, track events, school, and friends took up most of his time. However, that Christmas Eve was to be a special time with the whole family together. Dorine looked forward to getting better acquainted with their new son-in-law, too.
It’s not like Pete to be late. Where is he? She forced a smile onto her face.
Soon they had the table beautifully decorated, the turkey dinner ready to be dished up, but Pete wasn’t home yet. They turned the oven and burners on warm, then sat down to visit.
An hour later, the phone rang. “Honey, I’m shorry, can’t make it for dinner, havin’ a few drinks witha guys. You go head’n eat.”
Dorine stared in disbelief at the phone as she heard a click and dial tone. How could he? She took a deep breath and told them, “He can’t come, he’s busy with some associates,” Their joy was dampened, but hunger took precedence over disappointment and they managed to enjoy the evening with each other.
Doreen wiped her hands and eyes on the dishtowel. But, for me, something began to die that night. Hours later, when Pete stumbled in and fell into bed beside me, I almost threw up from the smell. When I said goodbye to Lisa and Jack in the morning, Lisa asked about her dad. I simply said he had late business and arrived home dead tired.
Each Christmas since, Pete got drunk. The kids never saw, and I didn’t tell them. It wouldn’t help to worry them. In the summer when they came for brief visits, he seemed okay. Doreen alone saw the problem worsen. How long before he loses his job or has a car wreck or something?
She urged him to go for counseling or to AA. But he couldn’t see that his drinking was a problem. “I can control it. I still have my job, don’t I? I haven’t hurt anyone.”
But it did hurt someone. It hurt her — deep down inside where no one could see. She no longer enjoyed him as her soul mate. He seemed a stranger with whom she didn’t feel comfortable. They couldn’t have meaningful conversations because of disagreements. She couldn’t invite company over, never knowing if he would be home and sober. And how could she trust him, knowing how alcohol can influence a person?
Dorine bade her reverie to stop. It’s hopeless. There’s no reason to decorate or bake for Christmas. She took a couple sleeping pills and went to bed.
Hours later, Dorine awoke to a frantic banging on the door. “HONEY! Op’n up. Fo’got m’key!” yelled a slurred, voice. She dragged herself out of bed, glancing at the clock that read 2 AM, and opened the door. Pete stumbled in. Standing in the middle of the living room, he swayed like a tree in the wind. All at once, “Gr-ra-ualp” and a volcano erupted all over the carpet. Then the “tree” lost his balance and fell into the vomit. At first, Dorine, didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the ridiculous scene. Pete looked like he could go to sleep right there, but she figured she better try to clean him up.
Her emotions darted like laser lights, first a flash of one color, then another. A streak of compassion hit her with the thought that perhaps he really couldn’t help it, that he was trapped by an evil bigger than both of them. Then flashes of anger drove compassion away. Why can’t he see that he needs help? that AA can help? that if only he would go to church, perhaps God would set him free? Doesn’t he want help? Doesn’t he love me enough to try to get well?
After Dorine got Pete cleaned up and awake enough to crawl into bed, she began to work on the carpet. What if he never quits? I can’t stand this anymore. Maybe I should divorce him. “Please, God, I need help! Help me deal with my own emotions and this confusion.”
The next morning, Dorine called her old friend, Marlene, “I’m desperate. I can’t cope with it anymore. It’s not just the drinking, but he’s smoking in the house, and I get asthma and can hardly breathe. One time, he dropped a lit cigarette after coming home drunk and started a fire. If I hadn’t been awake, I hate to think of what would have happened!”
“Come to Al-Anon with me tonight,” Marlene invited. “This is a support group for anyone who is affected by someone’s drinking. It will help you get your thinking straight.”
So Dorine began attending Al-Anon meetings two or three times a week. The fellowship
with others who had the same problem encouraged her, and she learned several things: Her spouse’s problem was not her fault. Her spouse’s recovery was not her responsibility. She learned not to take the symptoms of alcoholism personally, and not to be an “enabler.” She received phone numbers of people she could call when she needed to talk. This helped.
However, the depression continued. How can you call someone when you’re sinking? When a black cloud is engulfing you? How can you decide who to call, much less what to say?
Meanwhile, Lisa and Jack moved back to town and rented a house a block away. Jack had a month to get his family settled before leaving for Honduras for a Naval assignment.
“What’s the matter, Mom?” was Lisa’s first question at the airport. “You look sick.”
Dorine made some vague comment about being tired, “… insomnia, because of arthritis.”
“Here, Gramma,” said little Sylvia, reaching out her arms. “A hug will make you feel better.” Dorine knelt down to receive the hug from this precious girl who had been sending her colorful pictures and ‘letters’ she had ‘written.’ Oh yes, it did feel good. The sweet, childish smell and soft feel of her hair on Dorine’s cheek, the arms tight and comforting around her neck, almost broke through her defenses.
“Let’s go,” she said, looking away so they wouldn’t see her wipe away the tears.
Sylvia spent many hours at Grandma and Grandpa’s house while her parents got settled.
Dorine began to feel there was a reason to get up in the morning. Sylvia brightened her days. Once, while coloring, Sylvia told Dorine about a kindergarten friend whose parents had gotten a divorce. “And she cried and cried. And I told God to make that bad divorce go away!” The words hit Dorine like a two-by-four. Divorce is out of the question, she decided. Later that day, she made an appointment with her Pastor for counseling.
Although this decision was made, the heavy cloud remained. What is wrong with me? Why can’t I be like others? I feel so worthless. The counseling session opened up a small door of hope. The Pastor listened attentively and encouraged her. A few days later, as he had advised, she took Sylvia to a Christmas choir concert at the church.
Sylvia’s eyes shone as she watched and listened and tapped her little hands on her lap in time to the music. The music grabbed Dorine’s attention, also. After several songs, the choir began to sing, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” As she heard the familiar carol, Dorine suddenly had a thought. They are singing about me! Grabbing a pen, she hurriedly scribbled on the bulletin:
I am Bethlehem — little, insignificant, inadequate. How long have I lain here still, hoping for a glimmer of your glory, going through the motions day after day? As Dorine listened, jotting down ideas, she began to feel special, as if God had singled her out for a purpose. “Be born in me tonight,” the choir sang. Her heart responded, Yes, there is room in me for you. Shine in my dark streets and drive out the gloom. Give life and light to all in my world. Dorine allowed the tears to flow freely in the darkness during the last song, as she talked
to God in her heart. “Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Forgive my sins. My life is yours. Take control of my emotions and fulfill your purpose in me.”
Feeling an impulsive hug and kiss from Sylvia, Dorine smiled at her, returning the hug and wiping her tears. Her heart sang as they left the church.
On the way home, she listened to the happy chatter of her granddaughter while her thoughts organized into a speech for her husband. She would tell him she loved him, but that the alcoholic behavior must end. She would ask him to go with her to her next counseling session.
“Look Gramma!” Sylvia exclaimed, pointing to her Grandpa’s truck. “I prayed Grampa would be home!”
This is different! A Saturday night and he’s home early? Dorine parked, with a quick prayer for guidance.
They opened the door to see a sober man with red eyes. “I don’t know what came over me,” he said, “but when I went to the tavern, it seemed like the stupidest thing, and I couldn’t go in. The very thought of drinking nauseated me. It seemed like I could see into my heart, and it looked black. I’ve been praying to God to forgive me.” He began weeping again and put his arms around Dorine. “Please, will you forgive me, too? I want us to be a family again.”
Dorine took a deep breath. “Are you willing to go to counseling with me about your alcoholism?”
“Yes.” He nodded and looked sincerely into her eyes.
Dorine hugged and kissed her husband. “Yes, I forgive you. But I’ll hold you to that as a promise.”
Pete knelt down and hugged little Sylvia who said, “Jesus told me to tell you he loves you, Grandpa.”
In the next few days, Dorine prepared for Christmas with a renewed interest. Lisa, Jack and Sylvia came over, and Kirk came home from college. They were all together for Christmas Eve dinner. As Pete read the chosen scriptures to them, Dorine’s heart rejoiced. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5.”
Jesus Christ, the Word become flesh, had driven out her darkness.