I admit it. I went through a few years hating Advent. It feels like my whole life is Advent, so I wasn't that interested in a liturgical season of waiting. There's something about it though... Somehow, lately, hope has crept back into Advent. Not necessarily hope that the major life circumstances will change (like marriage and children), though that hope is sometimes there as well. Maybe it's more about the transformation of waiting.
The other day, I was talking to someone about how our Thanksgiving went and I was telling her that I got to see my super sweet niece and nephew (one year old twins, and seriously, ridiculously cute!) Her response was, "Does that give you any ideas?" She knows I'm single. She knows that I would not want kids on my own. What she apparently does not know is that the lack of spouse and kids in my life is not by choice. That I would like nothing more than that and one of the most painful, crushing things in my life that wears me down day after day and year after year is the fact that none of that seems to come together for me. Mostly I can brush stuff like that off in the moment, but I don't know if she caught that time that there was a pause before the shrug. The shrug was supposed to indicate some sort of socially appropriate "what will be, will be" attitude. It would go along with the assumption that I apparently just haven't decided to settle down yet, and if I ever do, it will happen. Because that's a lot less pathetic for public consumption than the fact that I have failed at making that happen in my life. I'm not sure if the truth cracked open for a moment in my eyes, but I know that I was frozen for a second by reality crashing down before I could pull off the public charade.
(Super hopeful, right? It's going somewhere else, I promise!)
The thing is, I don't even know what it is that I'm waiting for anymore. The desire to share my life is something that I don't think will ever go away (as evidenced by the fact that it gets harder in some ways each year, never easier). Yet, there are no guarantees that it will ever happen for me. That is the reality of life. My point being that I can hope for that to change, but waiting for it like it's just a matter of time is a little absurd.
One little glimpse that I am starting to get into Advent is the actual liturgical meaning of the wait. (I know! Who would have seen that coming?!) There is the wait for the birth of the Christ child. The recognition that God became man for us to be redeemed. Whatever suffering we have, big and small, is redeemed. Whatever parts of us that we can't fix, can't heal, can't seem to change, He can redeem. Our past, the ways that we have been broken and the things that we have broken, He redeems. When we wait, we wait for Him. When we need healing and meaning for our lives, it is coming and has come. Certainly we have certain prayers and dreams and desires that we hold most dear and wait for more than any others, but whether or not we see the fulfillment of those the way we would like, we will see redemption in them. That is the joy of Christmas.*
This also refers to the next coming of Christ, whether in a general way at the end of the world, or at our own deaths. While God does bring a lot of redemption and healing into this life, it is all partial until we fully experience eternal life. It is a reminder to me that even if I do someday get to live out the fulness of my vocation, it won't be perfect. There will still be more that I ache and long for. That is the reality of the fact that we are created for heaven, but live right now on earth.
The night that I came home after my acquaintance's innocent question, I was broken. I had a lot to do, but I honestly cried on the couch instead, because all the wounds were exposed, and there wasn't much to be done. It was one of those dark nights, but. It was also one of the first few days of Advent. The reminder that the "dawn from on high" is coming. The idea that I don't know what it will look like, but there is healing for all brokenness for every single one of us. The next morning was the perfect day to start fresh. For me, waiting in this moment is understanding that the darkness of our struggles and uncertainties is going to be followed by morning, when the dawn from on high will break upon us. Someday it will all make sense. Someday, I will once again know what it is that I am waiting for. Today I will do my best to do the little things that I can.
*Joy at Christmas is something that is available to all. Joy, I think, being trustful confidence in the Redeemer, gratitude in all things. This is not the same as happiness; Christmas is one of the most painful as well as the most joyous times of the year for people. Such is the way of this life.