It’s the season when expectations reach their annual peak. Around Christmas, many people wrestle with family expectations. Gift-giving, party-attending, family-gathering expectations. It’s not that gifting or partying or familying are bad. In fact, each is good. But when we have to measure up to stated or unstated standards, our minds swirl and our hearts ache.
And then, around New Year’s, we wrestle with planning expectations. We want this or that to be different in 2017, and we listen to podcasts and read articles and see all the “5 ways” lists our friends are posting and we panic.
In the room of a person dying on Christmas day, I cannot offer myself to a grieving family and simultaneously worry about publishing plans and gift exchanges and forgotten Christmas cards. You can’t either.
Which is why I started reflecting on part of an old poem last week:
May the peace of God my Father, rule my life in everything,
that I may be calm to comfort sick and sorrowing.
Kate Wilkinson got this phrase from Paul: Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.
We’re not always comfortable with the idea of rules. But the image is less about specific rules and more about the guiding authority we follow. To be calm enough to be present, to not worry about everything happening in all of my life, I need to decide who I will defer to.
Several voices offer to fill that role. But if I defer to the one who is aware of me and the person dying and the family grieving, I can be present. I can let the peace of God rule in my life.