This post is part of a synchroblog. December’s topic is Advent as a Journey. You can find a list of all the participants here, and I will put them at the end of this post when they are all in.
I’m trying to picture Mary on her donkey, passing the time on her journey to Bethlehem reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting God. I’m guessing it would be strong on nutrition, weight gain, and why you shouldn’t travel far from home in your ninth month (oops), but maybe a little weak on the whole sword-piercing-your-heart thing.
I don’t know what Mary expected her son to be, as she travelled toward Bethlehem. She had a nine-month meditation on carrying treasure in a jar of clay, but I wonder if she even had the beginning of an inkling of how different Jesus’ path was going to be than what many dreamed of for their messiah.
I’m pretty sure I would not have had a clue. I say that, because of all the expectations that have been challenged and knocked down in my life, the ones that have most taken my breath away have been my expectations about God.
Sometimes the lessons of un-learning our expectations are little, and we can take them in stride. Sometimes we fall down and have to get back up again after our hopes fail us. Sometimes you get not only the rug, but also the floor and the earth pulled out from under you and it feels like you are floating through space with no way of orienting yourself. Option number three is what my last few years have felt like.
For years, I thought I was building my life on Jesus and on truth, but I was really building on the expectation that God would bring about the internal change in my and others’ lives that would stop needless pain. It wasn’t that I expected bad things not to happen, or for life not to hurt, but I did expect healing for those internal wounds that get in the way of love and relationship with God, others, and self.
The recipe for collapse had to do with sinking into despair over personal struggles of my own, pouring my heart into friends whose internal suffering was not easing, sprinkled with an unhealthy helping of a too-fast pace of life, and a pinch of health problems. When one of those hurting friends called me to help intervene in an urgent and traumatic crisis–it was the blow that knocked the hope out of me. What happened that day seemed to sum up the failure of everything I thought God had promised.
Dr. Brene Brown calls the process that followed “unravelling,” and I totally agree. I felt the snap when the thread broke that was holding my worldview together, and the yarn has continued to unwind and unravel as I see expectations and beliefs that I previously thought were certain disappear.
The thing is, when you knit a sweater that turns out to have three arms and no neck, you will be a lot better off in the long run if you unravel it than if you try to wear it. I consider this process that I’ve been going through to be very good, though it still brings tears to my eyes to talk about the loss involved in having banked on hopes that God did not inspire.
All this reminds me of the road to Bethlehem–of Mary, not knowing the pain involved in her blessing; of the Jewish people on the long journey toward the messiah, hoping for a different type of salvation than they were given; of those who were looking for a king and found an impoverished baby.
For me, advent this year is a time of reflecting on expectation. It is a time for looking at what I have expected Jesus to be, at ways that wrong expectations have been undone, and at ways that I have lost hope. I actually don’t have a new set of things that I am certain of, and I don’t know what to hope for from God. But I do have a sense of expectation…that I believe he’s there, even if it’s been quiet for quite some time, and that I believe something is coming, like an unborn baby. And like expecting that baby, I am now trying to hold any ideas about how he will come with an open hand so that when he comes, I can see him for who he is, not for what I want him to be.
- John C. O’Keefe – The Season of Adventure
- George at The Love Revolution – The Weak Ghosts of Advent
- Peter at Emerging Christian – Expanding Our Experience of the Advent Journey
- Beth at Beth Stedman.com – Experiencing Advent With A Toddler
- Alan at The Assembling Of The Church – Walking Through Advent Today
- Steve at Emergent Kiwi – Am I Traveling Well?
- Wendy at View From The Bridge – Yearning For a Lived Theology
- Annie at Marginal Theology – Limping Along
- Christen at Greener Grass – Advent – Expecting and Un-Expecting
- Jeff at My Adventures – Journeys and Destinations
- kathy at carnival in my head – making room for the unexpected
- Sonja at Calacirian – Road To Nowhere
- Steve at Khanya – Advent Synchroblog
- Beth at The Virtual Teahouse – Clear-Eyed Gaze of a Stranger
- Phil at Square No More – O Antiphon #1 – This is the first of nine antiphones. Please check Phil’s blog Square No More regularly for additional updates with the additional 8 antiphones.
- Peggy at Abisomeone – Wandering With The Waiting Abbess
- Cathryn at Love Fiercely – An Advent Prayer
- Sonnie at A Piece of My Mind – Christmas WILL Happen
- Liz at Grace Rules – Advent – A Journey of Awakening
- Andrew at Tall Skinny Kiwi – God Came Near