I keep looking at my dark phone. I keep checking social media. I keep thinking about putting an Over the Rhine Christmas album on the turntable.
But I don’t.
Advent has begun.
I used to be one of those kids who got excited about the next Christmas in January. My brother and I used to “practice” waking each other up for Christmas morning in the heat of the summer.
I’ve always shopped throughout the year, buying presents at after-Christmas sales and finishing up at Black Friday.
I would stack up my Christmas movies and watch them when I got a few free minutes. I’d go to every party anyone asked me to. I bought sparkly tights and wore “ugly Christmas sweaters” and turned up my Christmas playlist in my car.
But somewhere along the way, the little girl who was so excited about Christmas, became someone who was chasing after what that used to feel like.
A friend asked me recently if I was going to be writing about Advent. She searched my blog and told me that she came up with all of my posts on “adventure.”
My first question: I have posts about adventures?
But it got me thinking, as words sometimes do, and I looked it up because I’d never noticed that the word Advent is contained within adventure.
As I read about these words, fraught with meaning (thank you etymonline.com) I discovered something which made me pause, thankful for the silence.
Both words are derived from the Latin verb advenire - to come. Advent comes from the past participle stem (as in: has come). Adventure comes from the future participle (as in: will come).
I’m sitting here, in the present tense, realizing that I’m breathing somewhere between has come and will come, between Advent and Adventure.
I like to wail a little at Advent. For me, it’s a time of longing and looking around at what is not right.
It’s easy to see that way. It’s easy for me to find those things inside myself that I hope for, and not the things I’ve managed to put on a Christmas list, but the things that make me literally ache with want.
I’m walking through this season with Enuma Okoro’s book Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent. For the moment, this means that I’m also walking with Elizabeth and Zechariah. In Day 1, she says: “Zechariah and Elizabeth know something about longing and waiting. They must also know something about the difficulty of maintaining faith and hope.”
Her prayer at the end of that day begins: God, teach us to be patient during times that make us uncomfortable.
I don’t think it’s just me either. In this time of light at the end of the tunnel (is it the sun, or a train?), it feels like many people in my sphere are crying out to God, grieving what hasn’t happened, or hoping against hope for what seems to be happening, and what hasn’t happened yet.
Things are broken, and, like many others, I’ve tried to drown out the brokenness by pouring myself another glass of holiday cheer and turning up the music louder.
But not this year.
This year, I will wait in silence, broken only by my occasional sob, or scream, or shout.
Why? How? When?
And it is here that I’m learning to inhabit Advent, between the two comings, the Spirit whispering inside of me. Because even though I cry and worry and complain and, sometimes, slide into despair, resignation and fear. I don’t do it alone.
Emmanuel, God with us.
God with me.
This weekend, my church is having a day-long silent retreat. It may very well be the only time that I remain quiet in church.
It was my idea.
I shake in my boots, even now, thinking about spending a whole day in silence, before God. I have a feeling that it will be a day about longing, about waiting. Looking, knowing that what I’m looking for might not take the shape I have in my mind. Listening, knowing that I will almost certainly hear something different than I expect.
I’ve been learning to listen to the discomfort as well as the joy. To press in, for release, for adventure. Because it will come.
One other quick note friends: I am going to be unveiling a new website tomorrow, which I hope to have all functional for Friday's post. The address is changing, but my wonderful web designer and I are hoping that all will go as it needs to, no action on your part required. If you are reading this in a reader and don't see anything for a while, or you suddenly find that it's been some time since you've heard about the little I know, I'd love to have you find me again at littledidsheknow.net.
I can't wait to share this with you all.