Thursday, January 6, 2011

an Advent Soul

Don't let anyone convince you otherwise: perfectly working clocks move at different paces. Surely the days and nights were somehow objectively longer last fall, my heart, body and mind occupied in Rwanda. Between July and almost December, every email I received caused flutters in my knot-infested stomach, almost always to disappoint and somehow create even more longing and pain. and hope for the next one.

But I knew it wasn't about him. Not about Isaiah anyway.

Oh sure, some (even a lot) of the acute longing and pain was very connected to our heart born son, who spent close to two beautiful and difficult years at Home of Hope. Without a family and without so much more that that. And those painful, basically sleepless nights mysteriously and perhaps even spiritually knit me closer to him. I would never wish away a single one of those aching moments.

But that "knitting me to him" wasn't the aching's only purpose, and Isaiah wasn't it's only focus.

I cringed and rebelled at the thought that I would somehow feel all better once he was home. Like many of you, I balked at the idea that if he had a good day, if someone could tell me that he'd had enough food, enough affection, enough attention, enough of a sense of God's love for him...that somehow the almost unbearable pain I was feeling would go away.

Maybe (likely) I was being stubborn, but I refused to let the pain go away. And I believed and still believe it shouldn't go away. Not yet.

You see, as I've asked our Maker, the One who hears the cry of the afflicted, to give me eyes like his. To help me to see more like Him. When I've asked him to help my heart to break more regularly for what breaks His. I really believe He has started to answer. And He has been slowly and sometimes painfully building and refining in me an Advent soul. I'm not even close to alone or special in this journey, I've found good company in present day and Old Testament prophets like Habakkuk and Isaiah. Many of you who defend the cause of the oppressed, or fight for justice have developed these souls as well. I'm a very unfinished product, but I believe He has shown me some of what it means to have an Advent soul.

In summary, I think it means groaning with all of creation for anything or anyone that isn't yet what they will be like in future glory. longing for all things to be as they should be, as they are promised to be. as they will one day be. it means noticing and feeling almost ruined over Spirit-revealed discrepancies in my character and, because of Jesus' work, what I will one day be like. It means allowing myself to be disappointed and deeply saddened over broken marriages...or even good marriages that aren't perfected ones (that's all of them). It means being moved to tears over the plight of children who don't have families. Who don't have enough food. or shelter. or love. It means being overwhelmed with anger and deep sadness for women who seem to have no choice but to allow men to rape them day in and day out, or else they can't feed their children. and to weep for the children who follow in her footsteps at a young age.

He's graciously and painfully opened my eyes to gaps between how He intends full life to be--how it will one day be--and where we are now. And he has taught me to feel profoundly disappointed, to ache, pray and long for the Kingdom to come in some of those parts of life. And to be dissatisfied with anything less. In myself. In the church. In the world.

To ache for God's fullness to come to broken areas includes admitting and articulating, even intentionally drawing others' attention to the fact that there is currently a gap. Martin Luther King says it so well, "History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of of this period of social transition was not was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people." It means waking people up to notice and care about the disparity. Seems like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised at the discomfort caused by admitting disappointments in life. Honestly it sometimes makes me and others feel a bit depressed or uncomfortable to see how bad some of it is. Who wants to willingly go there?

But I believe as we admit the brokenness of our lives. The ways we don't live as we should. The ways our motivations are so stained. As we confess that there are major parts of us that need to be drastically transformed by the Spirit before we will even slightly resemble our future glory selves. When we do these things, we actually defend the goodness and glory of God. For like the prophet Isaiah noticed, we are not good, but God is not like us: "Woe is me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the King, the Almighty." Admitting our inadequacies and brokenness is a first step in inviting ourselves and others to experience the hope of the Gospel. If there isn't a gap (for me, for you, for the world), why is the news so good?

God isn't indifferent about the discrepancies between future glory and now. He seems physically pained throughout the Old Testament as he sees what the world is like and He is always promising that He will defend the cause of the oppressed, He will feed the hungry, He will bring justice. He is always deeply frustrated by the wrongdoings of His children. Then when Jesus walked among us, he groaned, wept, grew angry over the injustices and brokenness he saw.

And so should we.

When we "go there" into the depths of disappointments in ourselves, or when we have legitimate godly longings for others and for the world, there is danger that we will lose hope. When admitting how dark parts of us and parts of the world are, we must be ever careful not to remember where the light is. Careful not to lose hope. Lately I have despaired over several things in my life that seem overwhelming, and surely when faced with the facts, it is easy to start to despair over poverty and injustice in the world. But the hope we have in Jesus is enough to overcome all doubt. All brokeness.

His Word assures us that indeed His son is the firstfruits of what is to come. That where it seems like there is only death, life will one day be. He shows us how to live with joy and hope despite the disappointments around us and the great disparity between future glory and now.

So, an Advent soul takes the invitation to explore how much more is on offer than we are currently experiencing. He sees (because God helps him) the discrepancies between future glory and now. Admits, with longing, aching, crying, frustration and sometimes righteous anger, that life isn't the way it should be. for him or for others. But somehow he lives and speaks with patience and grace (not me, yet), knowing that God is the one who will bring it to pass. Because though we are in a season of Advent-- of waiting for God to come-- we are also living in light of the hope and sure promise of the resurrection.

I'm grateful that after a year of Isaiah being home with us, I can tell you he's not our hope. His entry into our family was greatly anticipated, and we longed and ached for him during Advent last year. But my soul is not satisfied with him home. and his soul will not be satisfied with his imperfect family.

I almost long for those days of acutely feeling the pain of waiting for him. that led to desperate waiting and praying for the fulfillment of God's promises for children. for birthmothers. for those who suffer. That season of life was a gift, a glimpse into how and why we should be waiting for our Savior to come again. In fullness. When he will leave nothing untouched by his healing power.

Here's some of what we're told it will be like: "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. And they will be his people, and God himself will be with them, and He will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning, crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was sitting on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said "write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." Rev 21: 3-5

May our perfectly working clocks grow to feel a bit objectively slower as we long more deeply and eagerly wait for this day to arrive. Habakkuk 2:3: "for the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay."

PS. Can't go into it now, but obviously it is intended to be an active waiting. not passive. we are to engage, obey God, enter into others' suffering in order to announce that the Kingdom of God is at hand.

1 comment:

  1. Well, first: yay! it's been too long since I've gotten to read your words.

    Second: thank you.... I can't explain (won't try to here) what's been going on in my heart and mind over the past couple days regarding adoption, injustice, and so much more. BUT, this was helpful and encouraging for me.