I ventured out to Michael’s yesterday to find a few frames featured on their sale. The parking lot was a puzzle of cars and people, all with little space in between. The speed was like the speed of video-game graphics! It was almost too much for this avoidant, solitude-loving, introvert. Our car inched and inched and inched until we made our turn out of the parking lot, and finally snuck onto a back street that was less connected to the shopping center access points. Christmas season is a wake-up call, or it can be. Our values surface in times like these. Our money and time reveal where our treasure is. But when we stay too busy, we miss the important things.
Self-reflection is essential for personal growth, and yet it doesn’t feel productive; it never shows up on our list of “things to do.” In a world that runs at hyper-speed, we have no margins for quiet. And this quiet would do a good work on us if we created space for it.
I love Advent season. There are so many reasons I look forward to it. Whether we realize it or not, Advent is necessary for our health and wellbeing. It is necessary for meaningful friendships. Waiting has always been a part of life. But waiting used to be a lot more normal in life too. Life required us to wait in line, wait for a call, wait for that letter. Pregnancy has always been a good reminder that we can only control the speed of our lives so much. Our culture has worked overtime (literally) to create more ways to “be efficient.” If I asked you to brainstorm a list of all the options we have now to avoid standing in a line, or waiting for something to be ready, your mind would ping pong back and forth with many points on your list: we can order on apps instead of stand in line, we can take it to-go, we can have it sent overnight, we can order on the kiosk, we can shop online…
In light of this, we have become a rather impatient bunch. Irritable. Edgy. Scattered. Distracted. Aimless. Impulsive. It’s not who we were meant to be. “Efficiency” isn’t making us more whole, content, or kind. And if we take an honest look, it isn’t producing more margins in our hurried lives either. Being from the northeast, maybe that is why I love a good snowstorm. The wind bring drifts so high you can’t get out your door. It’s like a forces respite.
Advent comes to settle us down. Advent comes to redirect our values. Advent comes to genuinely reset us; at least it is supposed to. Waiting, as much as we hate it, is good for us. We have to lean on each other; we have to sit still with ourselves and listen for what God may want to say; we have to surrender our control; we have to stop rushing so as to start noticing the beauty around us. Advent makes space for self-reflection and begs to ask a few questions:
“Who are you?”
“What matters the most in your chaotic life?”
“What area of your life are you ignoring?”
“What has too much control over your mood?”
“What is missing?”
“What are you longing for that you have forgotten?”
“Why do you spend so much money?”
“When did you last sat in the presence of God and received His peace, calm and hope?”
“Why do you find yourself in the middle of so much conflict?”
“Why can’t I sit still anymore, what am I afraid will surface?”
Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for FREEDOM that Christ has set us free.” God is working our our salvation with the goal of our personal freedom. Advent is like God taking your face in His hands, looking you in the eye, and telling you He has more for you. The circumstances in life make us feel fragile. The wastelands we feel stuck in can cause a hopelessness to color everything. And in those times of waiting, God is doing a good work in us. The necessary growth is happening in the waiting. He is doing what we cannot do in ourselves. The winter landscape of our lives is teaming with new growth that will resurrect in the spring. This is our Advent promise.
So get alone. Listen. Keep watch.
Be alert to the light breaking through on the horizon.
Light an Advent candle as an act of obedience that you will listen to the Father sing over you with sounds of great joy. For He has come to make His blessings known far as the curse is found.