At any other time, I would be agitated if you said that I look tired. But I know my appearance is telling by the shadows around my eyes or fringes of gray that frame my face. It's the close of a year that’s drained life from my veins, and this heart can’t wrestle the angst any longer. I’m told that gratitude is the prescribed antidote, but hurt remains unchallenged and the sting without reprieve. I’ve sputtered and choked to a halt on the side of the road and this baby just won't start.
The issue is not necessarily faith, having enough, or too little. I don’t need a cheerleader. I don’t want distraction or positivity either. Even though I am still physically alive, my spirit is waving a white flag. If It’s ok with you, I resign to be sad, and mad, and brutally, unapologetically honest—Because on the road back to wholeness, there are no short-cuts, just slow, tedious routes that wind and bend precariously. Anyone walking through a loss or grief will tell us the endpoint is unclear. It’s marked with fits and starts, sharp, unkind turns, and sometimes chasms that leave you hanging in the balance.
Several months ago we were driven into the dark. To me, it was the deep, weeping heave of a country in agony. There is nothing about darkness that is compelling, yet good things can come from it. I believe this. Any farmer knows this. Seeds settle under the earth until they begin to anchor to the soil and eventually break through the ground, reaching for the light. Nature takes its own course and sweet time. We must simply--
Right on cue, we enter (or crawl) into the season of Advent. Regardless of how this time is addressed, we wait. Wait, while light fades away chasing us home. Wait, while geese echo their farewells across the sky, breaking the silence, and wait while the vibrancy of summer and fall withers to dull grays and brown which become like a mourning shawl, covering the void of what was. Harnessed to our losses is a season of anticipation. Each day of advent keeps building towards what’s to come— Hollow becoming filled with hope, a crack of light entering under the door, a gust of air for gasping lungs.
Centuries ago, the Jewish people were spent too, living under the oppression of Roman tyranny.. Although they had adapted as we humans generally do, they were none-the-less, weary and on edge. The cultural context was fertile ground for a miracle. It’s in mourning we are comforted, in distress and disorder that we can welcome peace. These are mysteries we can’t fathom or untangle, and yet they are somehow innate like the cycles of dark to light, sleep to wake, death to life.
These days I feel my frail humanity acutely. My intent to be joyful is overshadowed and reduced to lackluster offerings. I drag myself, one day into the next as if tethered to something. Time has worn into my skin and hollowed me out, making me feel like a t-shirt that’s gone through the wringer too many times, or the weight of the world is bearing down on my bones. And yet, it’s strangely comforting to see the vacant fields, the naked limbs of trees, because this is how I hope.
Until then, I join in the chorus of nature singing a song of what’s to come.
Let things die, whatever they may be--or the way we think everything should be, but isn’t or can’t be. Wait for the rebuild. Cultivate even the tiniest measure of faith, joy, peace, love(your word here). Something is always forming, stirring, in quiet dormancy. Even wasteland can be good for something and death rattles can become songs. Hope in the unexpected. Look for a child resting in His mother’s arms beneath a tattered roof, hidden away in the hills of Bethlehem.
When I was 18, I was preparing to travel to another country as part of a mission team. During one of our learning experiences, we took a short hike just before dawn. We were instructed to follow the white blazes marked from tree to tree, and the trail would end at an overlook, where we would watch the sunrise together. We took turns beginning, so that essentially we walked the trail each of us alone. My only companions would be these senses: hearing, seeing, and feeling. Branches and dead leaves cracking under my feet, eyes adjusting to allow as much light as possible, and hands reaching forward to steady my balance..
Breathe. See. Move forward. Trust.
--the sequence of thought that prodded and willed my feet with each step. Morning’s cool air on my skin, the crisp scent of the woods, moss mixed with dew, birds beginning to stir in the treetops--My memory began imprinting this, in order to initiate recall capability when the darkness became thick. I would remember this walk, how it felt to move in one direction with little else leading, but my own senses, and I would reach back for this as I began to field life’s unknowns, even in times like these when questions seem endless.
Seasons come and go. They shout loudly or whisper quietly if we let them. It may be maddening to sit and reconcile our brokenness, to unravel all the aggravation and actually feel instead of ignoring the pain or numbing it, but regardless of what they tell you, this is the best starting place and the most promising for healing. This year may be creeping towards the end of the calendar, but I believe the work is just beginning here in this time of Advent. Whether I walk or crawl through this season, let me cling to the side of the One who knows the way. Darkness precedes light, and after all the angst and fury of events that have occurred, I am ready to lay down and admit defeat, admit my need for a Savior, a healer, one who puts me back together-bone to sinew, to flesh and breathes life back into my lungs. I am ready for light to invade my soul, find its way out of me.. and break into darkened corners of a world that’s waiting to be healed too.