The Griffiths Family Motto: Go Big or Go Home.
If we had a family crest, that would be the Latin phrase running through the symbol. “Don’t do anything half-heartedly, give it all you’ve got regardless of opposition.” November-January is the annual occurrence of seasonal lunacy when my dad, completely uninhibited, takes it upon himself to illustrate this family creed.
Ever since I can remember, the day after Thanksgiving, the Griffiths of Clarence, NY would pile into our caravan with fake wood on the side, drive to a local Christmas tree lot and pick out a 10-foot tall Christmas tree to set up in a living room with an 8-foot ceiling. My dad was always passionate about purchasing a very full tree and it was resolved very early on that 1) there would never be room for the angel and 2) my mom would have to live with scrapes on the ceiling for the rest of the year.
But 6 years ago my parents moved and the only true requirement of their new house was that the ceilings be infinitely high as to accommodate a tree that rivals the White House. The day they moved in was the day that something snapped inside Mr. Griffiths. An Old Fashioned Family Christmas became a life’s work, a vision realized in the form of year round planning, recruiting and obsessing. It’s been suggested that National Lampoons Christmas Vacation is based on his life.
Now, the day after Thanksgiving looks something like this:
- Mandatory participation is required by ALL Griffiths no matter age or location or else “you are not welcome to enjoy my tree” for the remainder of the holiday season.
- We pile into a RENTED vehicle, because he needs an extended Suburban to haul it back to the house. Also because it is a distinct possibility that some damage will be sustained to any vehicle that is not commercial grade.
- We drive 2 hours (that’s the direct route, not accounting for any impulsive rabid trails) to the “Christmas Tree capital of the U.S” (he made that up).
- Though the farmer offers to have his workers cut it down and have it waiting for us at the bottom of the mountain, Dad says “No – my family LOVES to hike up mountains and unnaturally drag stuff down them.” (Dad, have you met your family?! Wasn’t there just some mention of paid help?) Naturally, he just wants to fire up his chain saw. (Side note: The tree fell on top of my brother last year and Dad was more concerned about the damage sustained to the branches than the fact his only son was pinned to the side of a mountain by a 400 pound tree.)
- He tells us all how much fun we’re having.
- 7-9 people drag the 21-foot tree (yep, to fit in a 20 foot ceiling) down the mountain and spend the rest of the afternoon struggling to get it on top of the car and still be able to see out the front and back windows.
- He mentions how much fun we’re having.
- We get to the house and the real fun starts. He gets all Clark W. Griswold with the chain saw in the driveway while we mentally prepare: This is not going in our yard; it’s going in our living room.
In case you haven’t quite felt the degree of his obsession yet:
- One year he fell in love with a tree that was in an old man’s front yard and asked if next year we could come back and cut it down (at 19 feet, it was too short – needed a year to grow). That Fall he called the man 5 times, leaving messages just to confirm that he would still sell him the tree. No answer, no confirmation. Turned out THE MAN HAD DIED and my dad still wanted to trespass on private property, cut the tree down and shove some money under the front door of an empty house.
- He created a scaffolding system to decorate the tree. He fell through it the first time he used it.
- He wants to INSTALL A PULLEY SYSTEM in the family room this year. It got so uncomfortable at dinner the other night, all conversation ceased while dad silently controlled his frustration with the lack of understanding my mom was showing to this “well thought out plan, critical to the ease of putting up the tree.”
Go big or go home. This illustration embodies the type of vision and commitment of what life in Christ should look like. There is nothing timid about his commitment to pursuing this Christmas Tree – he is not sitting in his big house imagining what it might look like year after year. Rather, it is his single focused mission to find, cut down, and see that tree standing tall in the middle of his house (donned with roughly 1 million twinkle lights).
I wonder how many of us have this vision in our minds about what being a Christian is SUPPOSED to look like or feel like or how this prayer is SUPPOSED to be answered and yet we never set ourselves up to make it happen. I may WANT my day to be filled with Christ, but I can’t manage to get up 15 minutes early to start it off with him. I WANT to clear my mind of anything but Jesus, but my iPod is filled with music that is void of Him. I WANT to live a spirit filled life but I won’t stop sleeping with my boyfriend. Stop sitting on the couch: rent a car, go to the woods, grab your chainsaw and MAKE IT HAPPEN.
20 foot trees don’t just grow in the middle of the living room. They are put there. The heroes of Hebrews 11 did not just get there – they didnt just have faith, they demonstrated it and took bold steps to pursue and to be obedient to their Creator. Like Steven Furtick points out in his book, Joshua prayed that God would make the sun stand still but Joshua was also prepared to MARCH ALL NIGHT. Yes, the Lord answered a prayer, but not while Joshua was sitting on the couch. He was willing to do the heavy lifting to see the vision realized. God does not call us to do something without also equipping us with the ability to do it in His power. Even supernatural intervention and provision still requires us to make adjustments and take actual steps.
I will note that single-minded pursuit turns into zealous mission when someone gets pinned under a tree…so fair warning: At any point during the year should the Christmas tree topic come up, and I assure you it will, DO NOT EXPRESS INTEREST. He WILL remember every word you uttered and you will be recruited to join this insanity.