why we should be talking about taking a break from traditions
Have you ever struggled with balancing family, extended family, work, a pet, children, marriage or singleness during the holiday season? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say they dread the holidays, but why? A time of harvest and celebration can sometimes feel like a noisy, chaotic time of year; filled with trying to meet everyone’s expectations. The holiday season breeds the happiest, most joyful emotions, or the saddest, loneliest ones; every emotion is at its peak.
If you’re like me, you probably try to spend each Thanksgiving and Christmas with family, extended family and/or friends. Its tradition, which is valuable and important! However, I’m learning more and more that it’s okay to take a break from participating in some traditions, and here’s why.
“Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.”
1 Thessalonians 2:4
Carrying on traditions like traveling to see family, cooking savory meals, and giving gifts are all part of what makes the holiday season bright. I adore fall, and get giddy at the thought of Christmas. If our house looks like Clark Griswold decorated, I’m a happy camper. What I’m learning through processing this verse, however, is the importance of examining your purpose, your current season, and your motivation behind participating in certain traditions. We need to talk about our why.
Candidly, I have traveled out of state for every Thanksgiving and Christmas for the past 13 years. This is the first year I will not be traveling for either holiday. Does it feel strange to take a break from following tradition? Yes. Am I disappointing family? Maybe. Do I love my family? Absolutely. However, my husband and I feel led to take a break from traveling this year in order to rest, and soak up the Lord in the stillness of our home. Our purpose is to please God, and following Him means hitting pause on participating in some traditions this year. Why? Because after prayerfully considering our season, this is where we feel called to celebrate.
The verse in 1 Thessalonians reminds me of the apostle’s keen focus during their busy time of ministry. God was their source of purpose and fulfillment, just like He is for us today. The apostles knew they weren’t responsible for people’s happiness; they were responsible for fulfilling their purpose, which was to love and spread the Good News. I imagine there were many loud, distracting opinions being thrown at them that could have taken their eyes off of their Creator. Some people even falsely accused the apostles of pretending to make friends just to gain wealth. I think it’s safe to say they probably didn’t meet everyone’s expectations on Earth, but I bet they felt at peace knowing they met God’s.
Our main purpose during the holiday season (and in all seasons) is to please God first – not Mom, not Dad, not Aunt Millie, not our in-laws, friends, or Grandma (even though we all love Grandma!). We aren’t called to be anyone’s sole source of happiness, nor are they called to be ours. Jesus died to fill that void in all of our hearts; it’s a burden none of us were created to bear. We can respect and honor our parents, engage and love siblings and extended family, and intentionally connect with friends, but it doesn’t have to come at the expense of our focus on the Lord, our peace, our marriages, our health or our budgets.
So, where do you find yourself this season? What is your why behind your plans over the next couple of months? As we prepare for the upcoming holidays, I want to offer questions to prayerfully consider:
Are you committing time with family and friends out of obligation; are the motives of your heart pure?
Are you called to take a holiday to yourself, or on the other hand, are you called to embrace/connect with more family and friends?
Are you investing in people and activities that will help remind you of His glory this season?
If you’re in a season of abundance, how can you spread joy to others?
If you’re in a season of mourning or heartache, in what ways can you give yourself grace to choose what is right for you/your family?
If you are in a season of loneliness, how can you take initiative to reach out for companionship? What activities bring you joy?
I hope this encourages you to take time to reflect on your current season, and give yourself the grace to choose what is best for you, your faith, and your family. Maybe you’re like me, and you need to stay at home for a holiday or two. Maybe you need to reconnect with family. Different seasons in life call for different forms of obedience. Taking a break from a tradition this year doesn’t mean you’re taking a break forever. We can mindfully communicate our decisions to family and friends with sensitivity, love and kindness; all with confidence in the Lord as our guide.