I am not starting with a quote this time but a thought of my own. This post is about juxtaposition- the old next to the new, tradition next to exploration, our families of origin next to our families of choice, our past next to our future. I wanted to take a moment at the turn of the year to sit on this threshold and consider all that has been and all that will be. This post spans 3 weeks over which we continued to talk and delve but in a less formal fashion and so I wanted the post to feel a little different too.
We decided after tackling finances and heading into holidays that we needed a break (no not from each other- we are not Rachel and Ross). We have had some very intense (good, but hard hitting) weeks since starting up this official courtship. We decided that with the pressure of the holidays we wanted to take a little lighter approach to us. Basically, we wanted our time together to feel like a haven and oasis in the crazy for a bit. So we decided to skip the hat and pick a “trivial” topic for the week before Christmas and then “break” for the next two weeks. And God laughed.
We chose traditions and holidays as our last topic of the year and in form with what God’s been doing, it was way more than we had anticipated. We both kind of went “oh that should be fun!” And then promptly realized how intimate and vulnerable those areas actually are. Our families are quite different in many ways and, at least for me, evaluating what traditions I hold most dear and why was quite revealing.
As I thought about what I love about each holiday and tradition I thought about the compromise that is partnership. It isn’t fair to think we will simply adopt all of mine and I will go on unchanged. In fact as I looked at my traditions many of them were things my immediate family had started and it became clear that that was part of their charm. What I found was that the traditions and holidays I loved best were the ones that were highly tied to someone I loved or to feeling close to someone we had lost.
This sent my head whirling in every direction. When the dust settled I found myself in a new question entirely- what traditions will we make. Genesis talks about couples leaving their families of origin to start a new family. I found myself wondering what our family traditions would look like. Understanding that tradition is meant to remind us of our unique places in all of our circles past and present helps me envision how old and new traditions might merge. This merging is played out in the season itself. One of the most tradition rich holidays for me (Christmas) jammed right up against a holiday all about letting go of the old to embrace the new (New Year). The mixed emotions and difficult balance of the two, for me, defines the whole month of December. I spend the whole month walking that edge, dealing internally and externally with the unease, excitement, anticipation and apprehension of it. Sometimes I feel crazy because my feelings swing so rapidly and so extremely.
This last week at church the pastor talked about innovation and model vs mission. I am struck by how appropriate and timely it was not only for the church but (selfishly) for my own life and relationship. His key point was that, especially in the church, we can get confused and forget that mission is what God calls us to but the model is constantly changed to fit the changes in the needs around us. My traditions, be they church or family, must be subject to the more important vision of mission. In both my church and my family (they really are the same thing) this means remembering why tradition is important in the first place. Connection and belonging. That means when I want to make room for connection and belonging with someone new (my partner or a new generation of believers) I need to make room in my life for new traditions that we make together.
To do this I have to do several things. First I have to be open and willing to try new things. New traditions can feel awkward or uncomfortable at first and not all attempts at tradition stick so I have to be willing to get my hands dirty and try things. Secondly it requires that I be willing to give up some of my old traditions to make room for the new ones. There are some traditions that occupy the same space and therefore cannot co-exist, one has to give way to the other or the two may blend and make a third distinct tradition. There is only so much time and emotional bandwidth so concessions must sometimes be made. This brings me to the third requirement and that is communicating with honesty, humility and vulnerability what is the most important to me and why. I cannot expect that all of my thoughts and feelings about any given tradition will be known or shared and so communicating the meaning of the tradition is important. That doesn’t mean I will get to keep it unchanged but it will help us to navigate how to make important traditions as we go forward by combining, creating and preserving.
With so much to chew on we really needed the three weeks we took. We started planning finances together and talked about goals and hopes for the new year. There was a lot of laughter and a lot of tears and an astonishing amount of vulnerability, but that is literally the name of the game. I am overwhelmingly grateful for the extended time to mull over these topics and so excited to move forward into the next ones.
So, (to hold onto some traditions while making room for new things) to the love of my life, my partner and my friend, the man I want to join in every part of my life, thank you so much for celebrating with me. Thank you for exploring and creating and excavating with me. I can’t wait to see what this new year holds and the traditions we will build in our life together.