This has been a year. Let me tell you, quite a year. Change. Loss. Shock. Confusion. Grief. Wandering. Yes, I think I will call this the Year of Wandering.
In this season of Advent, I am less inclined to feel a joyful anticipation. I find myself sitting quietly, taking in a breath to see if it will inform me of how I really feel. I know it is not the ever-so-desired holiday spirit that so many twitter feeds exalt. It is not the deep and profound gratitude that many of my friends speak of, blog about, sing to as they merrily decorate their hearth for Santa.
No, it is not those things. It is something else. A looming. A longing. An ache that is anchored strongly and profoundly, deep within the folds of my soul.
An ache for what?
I am not sure.
Justice? For all the valleys to be lifted up and the mountains to be made low. For the cries of the sad and weary and lonely to be heard. For powerful people to be able to recognize their power and then when they do, to say sorry for hoarding it and then go on a sharing spree until their power is spent completely for making things right.
Truth? To know where our doubt comes from and where it leads. For a sermon or a book or a blog or a song to cut through the bullshit, shiny, happy we-got-it-all-together mentality that we Christians seem to be known for. For those of us who are angry that God doesn't explain why good things happen to the just and unjust to have a place to belong. A place that doesn't try to change our minds but asks sincere questions and sits in the darkness of doubt with us.
Mercy? Yes, mercy. I hunger for it. I thirst for it with every fiber of my being. Mercy to wipe away the pain that can encircle us until we are caught up in a cyclone so wild with grief that we are left ravaged. I am left baron from a longing for mercy to blot out the loss that so many of us have stared in the face, with its fangs bared and its destructive, sulfurous breath filling our nostrils.
I wrote this last year on December 10th...
My gift this year for Christmas is a broken heart. Jesus says he wants us in all of our honesty & brokenness, so here it is.
My sorrow is deep & the pain is real. I gladly picked up the mantle of compassion many years ago. I joyfully took on the cause of the widow, orphan, prisoner, immigrant and thief. If you were a person or represented a people who have been left out, looked over or lost amongst the noise of power and popularity, than chances are, I was on your side. I have a dangerous soft spot for those suffering under the weight of oppression.
But this Christmas I am suffering WITH & often FOR those who cannot seem to find a break. My friends who have know a lifetime of sorrow & horrors too graphic to describe in a pretty little blog. I breathed in their beautiful lives with all of their goodness and strength and courage. But taking a drag off of their lives comes with a hefty dose of sorrow, grief, loss, abuse, powerlessness, addiction, mental illness and a host of other infirmities. We all experience suffering in our own way, but if you are poor and black or brown than you probably have experienced it more often and more intensely. And this vaguely ethnic, middle-class woman has found herself caught up so closely to the suffering that it is hard to distinguish what is mine and what is theirs.
Josh says I remind him of the big, lovely character in the movie The Green Mile. I have taken in the poison and sickness, grief and sorrow of many others and now I am struggling to expel it from my heart.
There is a promise of change but there is no promise of when. And so I wait. I wait with others who don't know how to come up for air even if some one threw them a lifeline. I wait with others who believe so thoroughly that they are beyond saving. I wait with friends who sell their bodies to turn lights on so they can wake their babies for school. I wait with friends who waited 56 years to hear the words, "You are a talented and amazing woman!" I wait with women and men who have been pushed to the edges of town, of life in general, because they are not pretty or wealthy or willing to pretend they are something they are not.
I wait and the panic of their lives has entered my own.
Apparently, it is in this dark place of despair, when all hope is gone, that the Christ Child means so much. Apparently it is now that really matters. It's always darkest before the dawn, they say. Do they say how long the night lasts?
This Jesus-loving woman who has known redemption from bitterness, salvation from despair, hope in the face of utter loss...this woman is out of hope. I am out of faith. I have spent it all & bankrupted myself in longing for Jesus to do the unthinkable. To change our hearts & minds when we have lost the energy to believe in salvation.
Advent means "the coming or appearing". What do we do BEFORE the coming? What do we say when the waiting has been so long and so disturbing?
I see young Mary, just a teenager who had endured so much shame, loss and fear. I hear her moaning in the cold night, gripping the dung and dirt covered straw as she waited for her baby to appear. If I close my eyes and sit, quiet and inward, I can feel her deathly fear as she delivers her boy-king. Did she understand the waiting was about to be over? Did she get it - really get it - that her female body was doing the work of the cosmos? Laboring through the night so that she could hold her baby to her breast in the morning. Did she feel it in her soul when she looked into his eyes? That her Savior had arrived. That her waiting was over.
Did she have eyes to see? Do I?