Saturday, December 15, 2018

godfather of mercy

It occurred to me that I have not been practicing Advent at all. I have been thinking about the season of Advent for months, writing Advent reflections, editing Advent reflections, I have memorized most of the readings, and know the Gospels by heart.

But something is missing. I haven't yet understood Advent to be happening to me. Until today, when I was walking to Mass and I think I realized that Advent was happening to me.

It was not pleasant.

But I think, if you really, really want something, then waiting for it is actually not pleasant. In the sense that it is absent, and your joy is in its presence. This can easily be transformed into a grasping to have it under your control, because you are human and to be human means to be hungry. Unfortunate, really, that we are made with stomachs. We are a collection of cavities, hoping against hope to be filled.

I wonder why I have not married the first boy I fell in love with much the way my brother has married the first girl that he fell in love with. We are similar in many ways, my brother and I. We are both insanely stubborn, both very insistent that we are right, both very committed to ideals (he accuses me of being idealistic, so perhaps I am more than just committed), both very loving. Annoying and arbitrary, then, that he has never discovered that particular heartache of leaving a trail of broken threads behind you: relationships that might have been and aren't.

There's no living with them, really. It's impossible.

I wonder, as the church bells peal the start of the Mass, that if I had never experienced this disappointment in human love, if I had never experienced my own utter inability to love—my inevitable falling-short, if I had never experienced heartbreak or sin on soul-shaking levels—would I ever have loved God? Would I ever have lifted my eyes up from earth? I don't know that I would have. There is so much here to be in love with, and God is stuffed into every corner and small atom of it. When Trinity is bursting out of the material of each day, it is easy to forget that the fabric is not actually deity. There is an invisible and intangible—but crucial—divide.

To acknowledge the divide, to experience your own self as riven by that division between God and earth, is perhaps the beginning of Advent and the first seeds of love. Oh, your heart aches, how I want this chasm to be bridged. Perhaps—oh maybe—there will come a savior, who can reach across it. Perhaps there will be a God who can enter into all the fragile shadow that I love so deeply. Perhaps the quiet God of incarnation can harrow all this hallowed emptiness and fill it with himself. Then, maybe, I will learn how to love.

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