We are in Advent, that season in the church calendar when we huddle together in darkness, shivering around candles, on the fool’s errand to hope in the middle of tragedy.
Advent is a time to weep for the young black brothers whom we have lost.
Advent is a time to lament that devout Muslims live in fear of Christians in America.
Advent is a time to listen to the howl around us, the barely concealed wailing of mothers and sisters and daughters, whom we have sexualized, used, discarded.
And still, Advent is a time to hope for the rumble of thunder and the flashing of lighting. All is not well, but all is being made well. Advent is the season we face the monsters of fear, armed with nothing but the vulnerability of hope.
In one of this week’s Advent readings, Joseph, the quiet, noble one, finds out his fiancee is pregnant. Religious custom demanded that he save his family’s honor by releasing Mary, and that is what he planned to do. Did he love her? Was he devastated? Did he weep and wail? Did he rage? Did he need to be restrained by his brothers?
We do not know.
We do know that in the middle of the darkness, he was visited by an angel, who told him that Mary had not cheated on him, but was carrying lightning in her womb, which would light up the world, saving it – the whole thing. All of us, everywhere. And so Joseph faced the monster of shame from his community, and took Mary home to be his wife. All for the fool’s errand of hope.
What monster are you facing these days? What fool’s errand of hope are you on?
I wrote about facing monsters in Beginnings. Here is an excerpt from Day Five:
Have you ever had to face a monster? What did it look like? Where was it lurking when you found it? What did it take to face it without getting taken under?
It usually shows up a few days after you’ve left the comfortable job that pays well in order to start that business you’ve always wanted to start. Its venom contains doubt and deadly procrastination.
It’s waiting for you in the closet, the one you still go to every day to get dressed for work in the morning, even though you got laid of two weeks ago. You just haven’t been able to tell your wife yet; it’s too terrifying. Its claws tear into the mask that hides your insecurity.
It rears up like a dragon the morning after the six-day binge that ended ten years of sobriety. What started as a small whisper of shame is now is a deafening roar, a fire-baked oven of self-loathing. You’ll never change, you’re no good, you’ll lose everything and everyone, and you deserve to.
It accompanies you to the doctor as you deliver the baby you have miscarried, your third in as many years. It is eager to point out how defective you are, how you don’t deserve children. It mocks you and saps your strength, leaving you stumbling around numb, or raging at anyone who will listen.
It sings to you from the kitchen, promising sweet relief from a chaotic day, in the form of food that you are not hun- gry for, but you need in order to stave off the anxiety. And when it goes in your mouth, you know it is the one thing that is for you, only for you; it doesn’t have to be shared. The song turns into a mocking dirge as you find yourself on your knees in the bathroom once again, emptying out that relief where all the other waste goes. And like those swirling waters, your anxiety keeps spinning and churning.
Whatever your monster is, it’s menacing. Facing it without drowning requires a mixture of desperation and hope, and it requires you to stand and remain in a place where that monster will go down. You need help finding that place, and then you need help staying there once you find it.
May you face all of your monsters with the help of the good God who meets you in the dark and sends you on a fool’s errand of hope.
Hope on, ye broken hearts.
Next Tuesday, we’ll look at what Day Six brings. On Day Six, we learn our names.
A big congratulations to Chris from San Rafael, California, who won last week’s copy of Beginnings.
I want to give away one copy of Beginnings per week between now and release. I will sign it and mail it, totally free. All you have to do is email me, or send me a picture, of WHY you need a copy of Beginnings NOW. It could be hilarious, poignant, deep, shallow, whatever. It just has to be to me by Monday, December 21st. Email me at Steve (at) stevewiens.com or post it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, tagging me so that I can see it, and using the hashtag #BeginningsBook. I will pick one winner per week, based on my own completely random judgment of which one is best. Ready, go!
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If you’d like to read the first two chapters of my new book, Beginnings, please click here. I’d love to hear what you think!
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