The epic, multi-year battle of wills began with a Christmas tree ornament. A very ugly Christmas tree ornament.
When I was very young I heard a comedian call Tom Petty the butt-ugliest human being ever born. At the time I didn’t even know who Tom Petty was, but that description stayed with me. I guess I thought it was funny. When I finally discovered who the object of the comment was, I didn’t quite think that it was true; I had seen people much uglier before and I definitely have since. For instance, I once worked with a woman who looked like Ernest Borgnine in drag. And for the record, I know that I’m not much to look at either. But what I lack in quality, I make up for in quantity. I’m ugly, but there’s a lot of me.
Because of that statement from the comedian, I thought of the ornament that started the battle of wills as the Tom Petty of Christmas tree ornaments.
I made the ornament in Kindergarten out of different colors of a clay-like substance that the teacher placed in front of us. We were told to use whatever colors of the substance we wanted and to make anything that we wanted. I decided to make Santa Claus’s face. I started with a blob of white that I pressed down flat. Then, I used the black substance to form a mouth, nose, and eyes and pressed these down into the blob of white. I finished my masterpiece by making a Santa hat out of the red substance and pressing that into the top of the white substance. After it dried, we put a whole through the ornament and put a string through the hole so that it could be hung on a Christmas tree.
I knew it was ugliest ornament in the classroom and probably even in the entire history of mankind. My classmates knew it was ugly, too. So did the teacher. She told me that it was nice, but I knew that she was lying. But for some reason, I was proud of it anyway.
When I got home, I showed it to my mom. She smiled her beautiful smile, patted me on the head, and told me that we would have to put in on the tree once we actually put the tree up. I didn’t realize something very important until much later–she never said she liked my ornament.
A few days later, after I had forgotten all about my ugly ornament, we put up our Christmas tree. As we were putting the finishing touches on the tree, I remembered my ornament. I raced to my room, found the hideous thing, ran back to the living room, and put the ornament on the tree in the only place I could imagine it being–on the very front, right in the middle. I took a step back and admired my ugly ornament on our beautiful tree. Then I went to bed.
Sometime during the night, my ornament went from the front of the tree to the back, where no one could see it. But it wasn’t a Christmas Miracle that moved my ornament. It was my mom.
When I saw what she had done, I didn’t become mad, sad, or angry. I became determined. My ornament was going to be on the front of the tree no matter what it took. What it ended up taking was me moving the ornament from the back of the tree to the front of the tree every day. Sometimes several times every day. I think that my dad and ugly brother became a part of the battle of wills, as well. It was kind of fun. And it sort of went on like this during the Christmas season for several years, until one day the ornament was gone for good.
Mom says that it broke; I say she threw it away. I only say this to keep the fun going; I really don’t think she threw it away.
That ornament holds a special place in my memory because I have thought about it often since then. Especially whenever I begin to think negatively about myself.
There have been days when I have felt particularly ugly and worthless that I have imagined being one of God’s Christmas Tree ornaments, one that He made with His very own hands. I picture Him taking me out of a box, looking at me with all of my flaws, and placing me on the front of His tree. I imagine it being awfully crowded there.
Because if we were all ornaments and God had a Christmas tree, He would find a way for all of us to be on the very front for everyone to see.
We are flawed, yet God loves us.
And He always will.
(What do you think about when you look at a Christmas tree? Do you have a favorite ornament, past or present? Share away!)