As the days of Advent dwindled this year, I saw myself grasping–begging it not to go. There’s something sweet about the way nights have been dark and quiet with hot tea, a fire in the ‘place, and a craft project in hand. It almost feels like we’ve been building a ship, lovingly sanding the boards, carefully melding them together, adding sail and rudder and varnish. Now, though, the dry dock about to be filled and the supports are ready to give way, and it’s time to test all the preparation we’ve made. We’re going into the fray, the incarnation is coming; just when waiting and preparing got really comfortable, the adventure begins.
I think I sort of forgot about the adventure, the incarnation–I preferred to ponder the waiting. There’s not much you can do when you’re waiting, you just keep your head down, say your prayers, do your work. When the water rushes in, you suddenly have to swim, to put to the test all the pondering, learning, and preparing you’d done.
Many autumn days (long before Advent began) felt like this, too. There was too much that threatened to push in and change things–to make me into a new kind of person; exhausting me out of bad habits and shoving me into good ones. I resist. I cling to tv shows and drag my feet to yoga class. I lie in bed in the early morning, willing myself back to sleep, though my journal, and books, and coffeemaker all lie ready to be used. Just keep your head down, do your work, say your prayers, don’t look around.
Christmas is here, and even now (especially those of us in clericals), we begin to look forward to Epiphany, which pushes in on us with great, blinding, demanding light. Epiphany’s a little like New Year’s–it says to us, “Here’s an enormous, dizzying, life-changing gift… What’re you going to do with it?” As W.H. Auden said in the poem I read in church last Sunday,
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
For a month in 2013, I had no job, no contract to promise a job, no illusion of my independence from God (my husband is a Ph.D. student, no real income there, either). It was the most peaceful, joyful month of my entire life. I knew in the deepest way possible that God was truly our only hope and foundation–my paycheck, my functioning as a parish priest, my local support network (largely), had all been asked of me if we were to continue following God’s call. So we prayed, and we plunged.
We’re called to live in a way that our lives look insane if our triune God does not exist.