I am just starting to emerge from a season of quiet. Not the nice, relaxing kind of quiet but the quiet that can drive you mad. The kind of quiet that stretches out for hours and days and weeks, when one day looks exactly like the next and you don’t know if it’s Monday or Thursday or Sunday. It’s been a season of trying to figure out my life, trying to determine my next steps for work, with both of my boys now school-age and me at home full-time…alone. And I don’t do well with this much time on my hands. There were days that were great, when I would be writing and I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be. Then there were days of feeling horrible about myself, scrolling through job postings hopelessly.
But now, the mud is settling and the water is clearer. I’m taking small steps, seeing progress and glimmers of success, and feeling a little surer that I am on the right path.
All that to say, the sense of being in the dark is still very close to me. Feeling insecure and worrying that I’ll never figure out what it is I want to do and a decade will pass, still in this place of not knowing. I look back on my journal entries from the past year and there are so many questions, so much despair. I am feeling so stuck. Seeing everyone I know find new careers and taking steps towards them…and I look at them with envy, wishing I had clarity and a direction to move in.
This darkness reminds me of advent. Not just because there is more physical darkness this time of year, with the sun setting so much earlier, but because this time before Christmas is a season of waiting. And waiting, when you don’t really know what lies ahead, can feel like darkness. But what I know about advent is that we don’t wait hopelessly. We wait expectantly. We await God with the hope of encountering him, living the paradox that while we wait he is with us all along.
I think of how Mary went through those nine months of pregnancy holding onto the promise that she would give birth to the Saviour — very much with God but also waiting for him to come. I’m sure there were moments, or perhaps entire months, when she doubted. If she’s anything like me, the glimmer and certainty of that angelic visit would have quickly dwindled, leaving her wondering if she had imagined the whole thing.
Bruce Cockburn sings, “Sometimes the best map will not guide you/ You can’t see what’s ‘round the bend/ Sometimes the road leads through dark places/ Sometimes the darkness is your friend.” My season of darkness didn’t always feel friendly but it was a beautiful invitation to rest, and I suppose this is what a good friend can offer us. I didn’t have a trail of success behind me or achievements to ground my identity in or a future that guaranteed anything, and I learned to be okay with that. To focus on strengthening my identity as God’s beloved. To value whose I was more than what I was.
I like how Eugene Peterson translates this message of hope in The Message:
These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. Romans 8:22-25
Advent is a perfect time to practice the hopeful kind of waiting. The kind where I keep drawing near to the one who calls me by name, and even when there is silence I can rest in his nearness, lean into his faithfulness. In the waiting I am growing, making room for the new things God would like to do in me and choosing joy because I know he won’t leave me as I am.
Draw Near includes twenty-seven daily devotionals to guide you through every day of advent. In each chapter she shares a personal story, a moment for reflection, and a scripture. We hope these pages help to create a space in your busy days where you can draw near to God and be encouraged in his love.
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