I took a somewhat unintentional break from blogging for Advent but my heart is full and needs emptying.
Limiting my time online for Advent has been very good. It’s given me time to focus on Christmas preparation, on gift-buying and making, and most especially, time for more quiet.
When I think of Advent, I’d describe it as a time of hopeful silence.
What is hopeful silence?
It’s a man pressing his ear against his wife’s pregnant belly, wondering what’s going on in the silence of her womb, waiting to hear their baby’s first cry, hoping for the moment he’ll get to cradle his soft body in their arms and kiss his smooth pruny skin.
It’s that last breath you take before diving off the high-dive and plunging into the water, hoping you won’t hit your head and you’ll swim back up to the surface soon for more air.
It’s a season. A season to retreat from the loud world, the noisy crackle of insane schedules, a time to release ourselves from outward pressures. A time for quiet, sprinkled throughout our days. A time for reflection and silent contemplation. A time to just be even while we prepare for the Joy to come.
The thing is, everyone is waiting. Waiting for something better. Secretly hoping for better days.
It’s why people work – to make more money for “a better life”.
It’s why people go to school – to have “better opportunities”.
It’s why most people get up in the morning – to eat breakfast. 😉
The interesting thing is that the past few months, even before Advent began, I felt the Holy Spirit tugging on my soul much like my three-year-old tugs my hand when he wants me to go somewhere but I’m “too busy” doing something else.
I felt God calling me, in His “still, small, voice” – Slow down, Erika. Come…come deeper with me.
I felt Him preparing me for – something, though not sure what, I knew there was something coming.
That something has been unraveling itself slowly each day in different forms.
Recently, our family has learned some hard news and serious health issues have come up in various forms that have given me enormous and profound pause.
We’ve had to step onto a path that none of us ever wanted to ever go on.
And this is how God is calling me to go deeper. He’s calling me to swim away from the safe shore, below the sunny surface, deeper to where I cannot see what lies beneath.
I say I’ll come, but it’s hard to dive deeper when you still have a life jacket on.
He extends His hand out to me and gives me that look.
And I can’t resist. I follow.
When one first comes to know Christ, the first “layer” so to say of the new relationship is much like a springtime dating relationship, followed by a blissful honeymoon. Eventually, however, it’s time to get real and that means accepting that if you really want to grow closer with God, you’re going to have to go through a certain refiner’s fire.
That said, I do not believe God “makes us suffer” or that he “sends suffering to us to make us stronger.” Thomas Merton says it well in his book, New Seeds of Contemplation,
In all the situations of life the “will of God” comes to us not merely as an external dictate of impersonal law but above all as an interior invitation of personal love. Too often the conventional conception of “God’s will” as a sphinx-like and arbitrary force bearing down upon us with implacable hostility, leads men to lose faith in a God they cannot find it possible to love.
I was talking with a good and wise friend about these things, about why God allows suffering in our lives, and what she said was perfect.
[Times of suffering] are opportunities.
God allows nature to take it’s course, He allows consequences – not to punish us but to allow for growth. He also allows much room for miracles. Sometimes we bring our own suffering. But more often, we find ourselves in hard times by no real fault of our own. Whatever the case, when suffering enters our lives, we have an opportunity.
We can look at the suffering and say, Why me?! I don’t want this! and fight against it and curse God and everyone.
We can look at the suffering as a gift. An opportunity to use this as a way to come closer with God. A way to reach out to Him for Help. An opportunity to join with others in their suffering with compassion and love. A time to seek Him and pray…a time to be quiet and listen.
(I’m laughing at that last line because amongst everything else going on this week I have had laryngitis and have no voice.)
A friend asked me today if I have felt angry or “Why me” about everything going on.
I thought about it a little and you know, not really. I have felt confused. I have felt humbled as I realize I know very little compared to everything I thought I knew. I have felt foolish for forgetting just how mortal we all are and how finite this life is.
But not angry. Why would I be angry with God? He is the ONE person who can help me deal with all this. He is the ONLY ONE who is bigger than any suffering we will endure. I need Him. I cling to Him.
I trust in Him. And I hope.
I hope for His strength, for his Peace.
Most importantly, I hope for all the JOY He has waiting for me and my family and all of us.
I know so many of us are struggling with various issues, most of us, in a hidden way, some of us in outward ways. I pray and I hope you can find comfort in knowing that God is with you through his Son, Emmanuel (literally, God is with us.) He is our only Hope, the one True Hope.