We decide to open one, just one gift on Christmas Eve. It would be the first time to do this and the anticipation in my fifth grade heart beats hard. After we open one, we all decide to open another. Then another. And before the night is over shreds of sparkly paper, ripped boxes and pieces of ribbon cover the floor.
I sit cross-legged among the aftermath, clasp the watch around my wrist. The gift I hoped for the most. The one that looks like a stack of brown squares with the tan vinyl band. And suddenly all that joy turns into sorrow and my heart sinks like a ballon out of helium.
Christmas a few years earlier, I am alone in the house after school and I find boxes tucked away under clothes in the bottom of my mother’s closet. Just a peek, I tell myself. It won’t matter if I know early.
And when I open the red suede ice skates on Christmas morning, lay them in my nightgown lap, she knows. I’m not very good at masking my true feelings. What intends to bring the surprise of joy is now a symbol of guilt.
It does hurt, this needing to know before it’s time.
Because my impatience corrupts joy, circumvents redemption.
I wonder how many times I have done this in my lifetime. Made a decision, responded to circumstances from emotion in a moment of weakness, and missed out on knowing true joy. Seeing redemption mend, heal, restore if I could just.rest.and.wait.
We can’t rush redemption. Decide when it is going to happen, how it is going to happen, polish it all neat and shiny and wrap it in the “I shoulds” the world insists upon.
We wait for it. Trust in the way it came to us laying in a straw-filled manger among smelly barn animals all those years ago and wait for it. And at just the right time, embrace redemption the way it comes.
Because it will come. And when it does, we will be full of joy.