Monday, December 12, 2011


this is not the season for blogging for me, nor facebook nor christmas cards nor much social engagement at all. but every year, i share the entry i have written for our church's advent devotional, and today feels like the right day to share what i wrote this year. the entire devotional is available as a free download here, and it's definitely worth a look if you're the kind of person who appreciates this sort of thing.

in quiet anticipation, and wishing you and yours all the blessings of the season--

Have you ever seen a child who has fallen, maybe running on the sidewalk, tripping and banging his chin on the concrete? Or maybe misjudging a curb on her bike and skidding knees-first onto the pavement? Or climbing to the tippy top of the jungle gym, only to slip sweaty-handed from the last rung and end up eating mulch? If you’re a parent, no doubt you’ve seen your children suffer something like this. And even if you aren’t, if you were ever a child yourself, you can certainly remember some experience along these lines. What is the look on that child’s face, there on the ground, bruised and bleeding and dirty? What is his cry from that place of disgrace and pain?

Mommy! Daddy! Help me!

But what happens when you rush in to collect the weeping victim? Is he immediately consoled? Does she grin peacefully and settle right back into her bike riding or jungle-gym climbing? Rarely. Even if the wound is nothing serious, even if your response is immediate and adequate, the recovery takes time. The child may refuse to settle down, refuse to catch his breath, refuse to have her wound washed, refuse to “get back on the horse” and try again. Which, frustrating as it may be as a parent, says nothing about your parenting and everything about the experience of suffering: even when we trust the response and know the healing to come, we can be slow to accept the comfort of that certainty. And no one blames the child for wailing at his playground misfortune or for hating having dirt scrubbed from her skinned knee. Pain is pain, and we are right to rail at its violence, even when we know and trust the relief to come.

In Psalm 77, the psalmist expresses our grown-up version of the same experience:  “In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted,” says verse two. It’s the child’s cry from the sidewalk: “Daddy, Daddy!” and his continued weeping in the father’s quick-to-respond arms. He refuses to be comforted. But here’s where we learn from that injured child, because despite the lack of immediacy to the recovery, the child does not hesitate to call out for her parent, every single time. “Then I said, ‘I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.’” It may not be a conscious thing, but that sweet victim of the pavement remembers that Mom is always there to scoop her up, time and time again, and she will call out to her this time as always, knowing that, as always, her skinned-knee-healing deeds will be mighty this time, too.

This Advent, this story is my story of longing, of the place between sorrow and joy. We wait all year for this, don’t we? Our hands are outstretched without wearying for the gift we know is coming, even if we refuse to be comforted in its promise, desperate for it to finally be here. My grief and suffering seem to be concentrated more and more each year in this season of anticipation; I can only believe that’s serving to remind me to long ever more fervently for the God of Psalm 77 who works wonders, whose might is known among the peoples. Who scoops us up off the sidewalk every time, without fail, and comforts us until we stop refusing to be comforted, just as He always has. This place between sorrow and joy, between the pavement and back-on-the-bike, is the place where we learn the true meaning of advent, coming

 “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5). This year, I’m glad for the challenge to begin rejoicing in anticipation of the morning, even here in the sorrow of the night.

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