Advent Week 4: the heart of darkness

December 22, 2010 | Uncategorized

We have been plunged this week into the deepest, darkest days of winter. Light is in short supply as we journey through the final days of Advent in anticipation of the birth of Light.

I have to be honest with you. I have been basking in the darkness this week, and not necessarily in a good way. Okay, in a bad way. God and I really haven’t been on speaking terms lately, which wasn’t God’s idea but I’m still annoyed with Him over it. Yes, sometimes I treat God like a spouse, sibling, parent, child, depending on my mood. I get mad, I lash out, I talk too much, I don’t talk at all, I yell. I figure God can take it. Then I wait and wait and wait for God to come around and make me see the light. But this week that hasn’t been happening so much, and as we inch closer to Christmas I worry that everyone else will be singing Joy to the World while I’m still singing the spiritual blues. I keep waiting for a sign.

So I went to Mass on Sunday and again on Monday because Noah was serving, and I had to smile when I heard the same first reading from Isaiah both days. First the Lord says, “Ask for a sign from the Lord, your God; let it be deep as the nether world, or high as the sky!” Right. Exactly That’s the kind of sign I want. Then the other shoe drops when Isaiah says: “Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God?” Hmmm…Yes, I would say I have been wearying both people and God this week. Funny how that reading came up two days in a row, especially when I almost never go to daily Mass. For a brief moment I thought maybe this was the sign, but then I brushed it off and sunk back into the darkness to wait for a better sign.

In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, when the winter solstice, full moon and total eclipse came together at once for the first time in 456 years, I pulled my coat on over my pajamas and stood in my driveway in my slippers at 3:12 a.m. hoping to see something spectacular. I looked up and saw nothing. Thick whitish-pinkish clouds moved by, making it impossible to see the moon covered in shadow. Ever so briefly a thought crossed my mind: I know the moon is there even though it’s hidden from view. This is exactly how I feel spiritually right now. I desperately want to feel God’s presence, to see God casting a shadow across my life, but I can’t. And yet God is there behind the spiritual weather system that is wreaking havoc with me. But again I brushed it aside. Yeah, whatever. That’s not a real sign.

Then last night I drove with a friend to an Advent prayer service where another friend was giving the Scripture reflection. Again I hoped that this would be the thing that would finally lift me out of my spiritual doldrums. We sang, we prayed, we watched the incense rise to the heavens amid flickering candles. Then my friend spoke about the reading from Song of Songs, reminding us that we are supposed to see God in the role of lover, a role that doesn’t always feel comfortable even as it beckons us to meet our God in the most intimate way, turning over our hearts, our souls, our lives with a passion that burns bright enough to light up even the deepest winter darkness.

So maybe I’m not that far off base after all when I say I sometimes treat God like a spouse or child or sibling or parent. Because in all of those relationships beats the heart of true love, love that sometimes gets turned on its head when we are confused or frightened or angry or disappointed, but in the end remains true. And God patiently waits there, wondering if perhaps I’ll ever get around to giving Him a sign instead of always expecting God to take the lead.

In reality, this week has been full of signs. Not the spectacular signs we see in the Old Testament or as we run through the Gospels this week of Mary and the Annunciation, Joseph and the angel in his dream, Elizabeth and her recognition of God’s presence upon Mary’s arrival. Now those are signs. My signs have been much more subtle — the feeling of community among friends as we prayed together; the beautiful Christmas tree and strong smell of pine that took my breath away when I walked into my darkened, empty parish church, not realizing the decorating had begun; the moon hidden behind clouds on a starless winter night; the words of the prophets ringing true for me today as they rang true centuries ago; the friends who meet me for coffee or drive up for dinner and listen to my stories and my whining and love me just the same; the husband and children who bear my dark moods and spiritual angst amid their pre-Christmas joy, patiently waiting for me to come around and join them. Each one pours a little more light into my weary soul and reminds me that I should not wait for a sign; I should become a sign.


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