My Loneliest Birthday Became a Blessed Christmas Eve

by | Dec 24, 2015 | 2 Those Who Mourn

depressionBlessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).
On Christmas Eve eight years ago today, I spent my 50th birthday alone. Except for a phone conversation with my parents, I had no human contact.
Eight months earlier, my first wife and I separated. My hopes for that birthday that did not come to pass. I did not plan to spend it alone.
Meanwhile, the holidays suffocated me, the celebration in the crisp, open air while beneath coat and ribs, my long-broken heart languished. I did not dare speak and ruin everyone’s carols with my monotone; yet, I choked on my muffled voice. I chose to gasp alone.
At least I could pray. Ironically, I could only speak to God because I accepted permission to pray without words. The silence of daily centering prayer unleashed my tongue to talk with God afterward. But on that birthday with my eyes closed, waiting, my throat and chest a knotted tangle, one silent prayer left me speechless in a new way.
For a lingering moment, warmth arose within, and I felt as if tender, sure fingers untangled that knot. I sensed a glow through my closed eyelids that I did not dare open. Peace came with cleansing tears. Love visited the way only love does with a disarmingly tender touch.
It came out of the blue. I prayed that way many times before, and today I cannot count the times since, usually an exercise of presence and quieting and re-quieting my mind before a waiting inner silence. The method did not make it happen. It just did.
And I suppose I could join the skeptics and safely write it off as a wishful burp bubbling up from my unconscious, a hypnotic suggestion, or a moment of delirium. But it changed me. From that consolation, a new hope slowly grew. A whispered call became a voice bidding me share fruit from the pain and consolation.
Today I awaken with my new wife, the loveliest woman I have ever known or imagined, and her affection always surprises and delights me however routinely it comes. We will celebrate my birthday with a big breakfast for her kids and mine, and she will make music in two Christmas Eve worship services at the Episcopal Church where she is the organist. I will worship, and I will probably spend some time alone which I will receive as a gift.
Eight years ago, I suffered panic attacks daily. Today, I submit to daily gratitude attacks. Then the darkness overwhelmed me. Today the blessings do. But mark my word: Had God not provided today’s birthday blessings, God’s touch that day eight years ago would still restore my soul.
If you are lonely, brooding in isolation or in a crowd covering your broken heart with a smile, please know that I will pray for you today as I will every Christmas Eve. Our wounds unite us. And however it comes, may God touch you, soothe you, and bring forth fruit from your most precious life.


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