So, who’s still eating leftovers? That’s OK, there’s nothing wrong with leftovers. I know some people who appear to be constitutionally opposed to eating leftover food, but more and more, the big meals of the holiday season seem to lend themselves to the pleasure of picking at sweet and savory dishes for days, maybe weeks. And for many of us, food isn’t the only thing left over from holidays.
We enter now one of the hardest times of year for many people. Yes, it’s busy with all kinds of parties, concerts, and get-togethers. But this time of year is also crammed for many with feelings that aren’t cleared away with the dishes at the end of the night. Spending time with family, spending time without family, or spending time with our memories of these weeks from years’ pasts, it is very easy to start to feel some of those core fears so many of us carry in common: Will I be alone? Will I be enough? Will I be loved?
I know that in a time of merry making and celebration to consider these questions might feel scary or like a little bit of a bummer. But it is around these questions that we all build so many of the structures in our lives: we cultivate relationships, we search for a life of meaning, we try to give and receive love. And it’s not an accident these questions come to us at this time of year. We journey now through the time a when throughout human history, perhaps left over from the deep time of our communal life together, so many stories, rituals, even religious experiences center on renewed life and the surprise of the sacred coming in contact with the mundane. And so much of that history, so many of those stories, and even some of the core beliefs of religions start to pick once again at those same questions: Will I be alone? Will I be enough? Will I be loved?
It is one of my deepest convictions that these are also the very questions that faith communities should be committed to answering with a resounding YES, repeating the sounding joy of community, welcome, and love into the rest of the year. We all carry something left over from our pasts, something that makes us ask these questions. But the finest gifts we bring one another in a shared community are a place to ask these questions safely and a place that meets these questions with understanding and compassion.
We all work through our leftovers in different times. We can’t tell can tell others when they’re supposed to be done with them. So as sure as we each take care of our own, we can also be aware of what those around us might still be working on, what they might be picking at, and offer support and understanding to them. For truly we know that this time of year, it is better to give than to receive.