I’ll be honest: I’m not feeling very Adventy this Advent. I don’t have that sense of anticipation, the expectation that is often present in the weeks leading up to Christmas. I’m just…here. Slogging. Going through the motions. Checking chores off my list. I feel a heaviness inside, an unease I can’t quite put my finger on.
I find myself wishing it were Lent instead. Somehow these lackluster, angsty feelings seem more appropriate for those somber, mid-winter days.
Sixteen years ago on a sultry August day, during the early hours of labor with Noah, my first-born, I sat outside on the back patio, my hands resting on my big belly as it tightened and released, tightened and released. I called friends and chatted happily. Later I paced the backyard, deep-breathing as the cicadas sawed the thick humidity. I thought about my baby boy, my heart, head and gut a tangle of nervous, jangling joy.
Fourteen hours later I lay in a hospital bed in the dark. The nurse had piled three blankets on top of me. They were warm from the dryer, but still, I shook uncontrollably from somewhere deep in my core, like seismic waves rippling out from an epicenter. It wasn’t cold exactly, and I wasn’t in pain – the epidural had largely alleviated that — but something unfamiliar and frightening was happening to my body.
“You’re in transition,” the nurse told me, patting my shoulder as I gripped the sheets.
I was afraid. Around me the voices of encouragement receded. Everything grew hazy, the end point a dim prick of light. I lost focus. The goal seemed far away, unreachable. So fixed was I on the fear and the unfamiliar, I lost sight of everything else, including the baby boy I was about to birth into the world.
Transition…not the most appealing part of labor. Transition leaves you feeling shaky, out of control, lost and anxious. Transition dims your focus, blurs the way, has you gripping the bed sheets. Transition is when the hard, necessary work gets done, the work that will lead you out the other side again. But it’s not fun. It’s lonely and scary.
I feel like I am in some sort of transition right now, though I don’t know what I am transitioning out of and in to. It’s not as frightening as that first labor transition by any stretch, and yet, there is still a palpable sense of unease.
I recently read some verses in John that resonated with me. Something kept bringing me right back to the start of the paragraph to read and reread the same words again:
“Your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy, that a child is born into the world. So with you: now is your time of grief, but I will see you again, and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (John 16:20-22)
Your time has come, says the Lord. Now is your time of grief.
Maybe you’re like me right now. Maybe you’re not feeling particularly Adventy this Advent. Maybe you’re feeling a little lost, a bit afraid, lonely, weary, shaky. Maybe you’re doing the hard work of transition. Maybe you’re not seeing Jesus very clearly right now when it seems like everyone else is.
It’s okay. Those words I read in John? Those words are from God, telling us that it’s okay.
Now is my time of grief. And the timing may be less than perfect, it being Advent and all, but now is the time nonetheless.
There’s hope. God still sees me, and I will see him again. And we will rejoice, Jesus assures me, for no one can take away our joy.
*This is actually an edited repost that was featured in the December issue of Gather magazine. When I re-read it this week, though, it resonated with me, because truth be told, I’m not feeling very Adventy this Advent. I hope, if you’re in a similar place, it will offer you a bit of solace. Peace, friends.