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“The waiting is the hardest part”

by Carrie Nettles,  mom, minister, advocate, reader, teacher, and perennial student, Associate at LeAnn Gardner Counseling and Training

“The waiting is the hardest part.”1

Or so says St. Tom of the Heartbreakers

This lyric pops into my mind when my preschooler melts down after I defer her desire for every Disney/Calico Critter/Shopkin, shiny, blinky, twirly thing we walk past on my (supposed-to-be) short trip to buy new candles for the Advent wreath.

She comes by it honestly. When the spiritual gifts were doled out, I must have passed on by the patience. It’s okay; God works even greater miracles than transforming my great impatience. I trust it will come. “You take it on faith.”2 I’m doing my part, but as I look at her tear-stained cheeks I think, yeah, kid, I get it. The waiting is the hardest part.

I know a little something about waiting. Serving as a chaplain in a level one trauma center means waiting with people in some of the most agonizing moments of their lives. They wait what feels like eternity to learn their loved one is tragically dead/mercifully fine. I learned even more about waiting as I sat beside them in the uncertainty and fear.

I was serving as a hospital chaplain when Mom’s diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer came. I knew. I walked in two worlds that year: one, the daughter championing her mother’s unfailing fortitude, her fight for her life; the other, the chaplain who knew in the deep knowing place that we were already very close to the end. So while I fought for Mom and with Mom, I was also insubordinately waiting for her to die.

The waiting was the hardest part: both knowing it was impending, even closer than the doctors and family acknowledged, and being utterly at its mercy.

The waiting now is for the deep morass of grief to relent a bit. Just as the Hebrew for forty days and nights or years is best understood as “it takes as long as it takes,” this season of grief will take as long as it takes. The waiting is the hardest part.

And whether I can feel joy at Christmas or not, it does come again in the morning.3 Or so says the Psalmist.

And…

And, it comes in the mourning.

“And” is a holy conjunction yoking together what seems impossible.

 

Joy? In mourning?

Mom is dead. And Christ has defeated death.

Death wins every day, and we say again and again, I believe in the Resurrection and the life everlasting.

I have seen the effects of the evil we visit upon one another in recovery rooms, hospital rooms, ER waiting rooms, and rape crisis boardrooms. People are brutally murdering and injuring one another and themselves all day, day after day. And we sing carols of “Rejoice” and “Glad Tidings.”

We are all suffering and rejoicing, dying and being born. We are stuck in the muck of sin that is killing us. Wars rage. Tyrants rule. We massacre innocents. We turn away sojourners. Nothing has changed.

And,

Everything has changed.

The story Matthew tells of the world into which Jesus was born is also our story even now.

And as I have waited, I came to know that holy conjunction AND as that which brings us close to knowing a mystery.

In this midst of the darkness, we have seen a great light.

We are waiting on a miracle, and the miracle is happening even now.

We are waiting for the Christ child to be born, and God is already with us working in the dead places, giving birth to new life.

The waiting is the hardest part, especially for impatient ones like me and B, AND the miracle has already happened. Wait just a moment more, you’ll see.


1 The Waiting by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

2 ibid

3 Psalm 30

 

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The Light Has Come

by Marjorie Avent, Owner-operator at M.Avent Coaching, LLCand Co-Founder and Program Coordinator at Center for Enrichment + Renewal

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.Jn 1:1-5

This year, in particular, I’m really grateful for Advent. The past 18 months have been challenging on so many levels for me, as I’m sure for many – the experience of personal loss and intense grief, a heinously contentious presidential campaign and election season, increased violence and threat thereof both locally and globally. Seriously, it’s been an emotionally exhausting, and in many ways rather devastating, year and a half.

There have been times recently when I’ve been tempted to just give up – on faith, on politics, on church, on family. Then I read a passage like the first verses of John. It certainly puts things into some perspective when I’m overwhelmed by what’s happening around me. But, honestly, honestly it’s the last verse that I’m holding tightly to this year: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Even in this moment, the words bring tears and a throat lump. My world, our world, has felt like utter darkness to me since last August when I lost my dad. Compound that loss by the vitriol and utter hatred being spewed back and forth between political parties, the oftentimes harsh banter on social media between so called “friends.” Then add in another mass shooting or two. Throw in a few church disagreements and some panic around decreased giving, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for the darkest darkness.

I remember a few years ago on retreat at Camp St Christopher trying to make my way down a “path” to the beach fire pit. I don’t know that I’d ever felt the dark quite like I did that night. It was totally unnerving. I remember trying to coach myself one step at a time until I could see the light of the fire. I’ve used the analogy a number of times about not needing to see the entire path – just enough to put my foot down for the next step. Well, I’m not going to lie, the analogy has rung hollow for me during the last 18 months. I’m ready to see the light.

And, now, it is Advent. We’re reminded every Sunday of the Light. And, we share the Light with our people, we announce its in-breaking boldly and with as much faith as we can muster.

The light shines in the darkness (in the grief, the overwhelm, the terror, the emptiness, the disbelief), and the darkness (the pain, the fear, the anger, the ______) has not overcome it.  Welcome, Advent. I, for one, am glad you’re upon us.

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For Everything There Is a Season

by Anna Burch, 2016 BWIM SC Scholar

3For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; 7a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes is not your typical piece of scripture for Advent. However, this book captivated me earlier this year and it has continued to do so throughout the year. I find it drawing me in again this Advent season.

As we draw close the end of a sad, violent, angry, and tumultuous year in our country and as we move happily, hopefully into the season of Advent, I find myself needing a reminder that life moves according to God’s seasons and timing. I also find myself needing to be reminded that God still draws near to us today, as he did 2,000 years ago in a tiny manager in Bethlehem. God came near in a stable through a tiny baby and if we look around us, we can still see God drawing near today.

As we look for God this Advent season, we can find and feel God’s nearness. May we feel God bringing a season of healing, of planting, of laughing, of dancing, of embracing, of loving, and of peace. And oh how we need that peace- or at least I do.

As we journey through the Advent season, what do you find yourself in need of? What do you need this to be a season of? What is God bringing near to you?

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