A friend encouraged me to write on Advent this December, which seemed intriguing, and truthfully a little intimidating. I’m never shy to share my thoughts on faith but I’m certainly no expert.
Yet while I have no formal theology education, or a single certification or qualification, I have my own real-life experience with God. All of us do. I have gazed into God’s eyes through each of my brand new babies, screamed at Him through broken plates of grief and anger, and cried on His shoulder when He showed up in the form of a friend.
I have also doubted His presence. He has, at times, felt very far away. I’ve felt abandoned. Betrayed. Suckered. This is the reality of relationships, yes? Even (especially) my relationship with my Maker.
But I’ve learned that God's perceived absence or neglect is simply my own ignorance to the way He's moving in my life. Because no matter how far away God seems, I have always been held. Protected. Provided for. Entrusted with gifts I could never have dreamed of. Blessed by miracles unexplained, and certainly undeserved.
I’ve experienced those precious glimpses into the Divine not because I am special – I’m not - but because I look for them.
And when there are no glimpses to be found, I’ll wait until they appear.
Advent is the season before Christmas, created by the early church to help prepare for the birth of Jesus. For a brief and interesting history lesson, click here.
In short, Advent was a period of four to six weeks (commonly in the modern church it begins four Sundays before Christmas) intended for fast and prayerful preparation. Similar to the observance of Lent, which is a similar window prior to Easter, Advent is a time to joyfully wait on the coming of Jesus.
Advent is a time to wait.
But waiting isn’t easy.
As a general species, we don’t wait well. We get itchy. Impatient. Frustrated. And arrogant. We grab the reigns, take the wheel, and forge ahead with confidence we can do it ourselves. Not just in our own spiritual lives but also in our relationships, our careers, our passions, and our pursuits.
To our credit, it’s hard not to barrel through. Admittedly, I don’t think I’ve ever found the right balance of entrepreneurial spirit (bulldog grit) and patiently waiting for God to direct my steps. Those two ideas feel opposite to me… although I realize they are not. I can follow God’s calling for my life and still work diligently to accomplish my (His) purpose. Writing the book was the perfect sweet spot pairing of those two mindsets. But that is a different conversation altogether.
I feel most comfortable when I lean to the bulldog side. And I finally figured out why. It’s because I feel powerful caught up in planning and doing. Staying in motion, moving towards a goal, charting my course and checking it a million times to make sure every detail is still tightly gathered in my hands.
Yet if I can pause to be still for even one small moment, I can see that the most miraculous shifts (miracles, even) have appeared when I have simply waited. And that brings confidence that my life is heading in the right direction, guided by the right hand.
Confidence beats comfort every time.
As our marriage unraveled, my constant prayer was part statement, part request.
“I will hold on one more day. Show me what to do and give me the guts to do it.”
I wanted nothing more than to move. Quite literally, actually. But mostly I felt pressure to act, to empower myself, to make something happen in my own time. To fix my marriage or end it. (Pro tip: the first mark of a poor plan is if it includes the words “me, my, or I” more than any other word.)
But after realizing my own flawed plan to fix my marriage myself fatally wounded a whole bunch of other people in the process, something (someone) held me back from any movement at all.
So I stopped dead in my tracks. For nearly nine solid months.
I drove people crazy in this standstill. They did not – could not – understand why nothing was happening. Why our marriage was sinking in the quicksand of anger and pain. And in their frustration, many of them encouraged me to act. Stillness bothers us.
So be wisely discerning of who you allow to speak into your life. Because during this standstill, I realize now there was only one voice I needed to listen to. And that voice doesn’t shout. It whispers.
Many times I started to believe the lie that “it really would be easier to quit.” I can move forward, my children are resilient, I have the capability to provide financially for myself, my support group is solid, my feelings matter, I have a bright future, I can do hard things. (I… I… I… I… my… my… my… me… me… me. That's )
But instead, as impossible as it felt at the time, I waited. I have waited before, and I can do it again.
I have waited through pain. I have waited through doubt.
Through the heartbreak of miscarriage.
Through the agony of losing a son.
Through the fear of a fraying marriage.
Through the confusion of betrayal and loss.
Through the humiliation of my own mistakes.
Through the blindness of an unknown future.
I will wait.
I will wait because my own self-contrived decisions are not necessarily the right ones.
I will wait to hear God’s voice, which speaks differently to every person. He speaks to me through people and undeniable signs on my path. Go. Stop. Turn. Move. Pause. Act. Listen. Write. Speak up. Hold back.
I only notice God's voice, these undeniable nudges, when I intentionally listen and watch for them, rather than my own loud thoughts and the clanging noise from the rest of the world too.
That’s what makes Advent especially important. Because there are miracles everywhere. And I don’t want to miss a single one distracted by the noise.
God sent His Son at Christmas with two assurances I hold to more tightly than any other: that He walks with us in the world, and that one day we will all be together again. He lavished his greatest gift upon the most ordinary and unremarkable people - shepherds and peasants, and you and me - not because of anything we've done to earn it but simply because we belong to God. This is hope. This is love.
So I will stand watch in this season of Advent, preparing my heart for however... and whenever... God is going to move.
He's worth the wait.
Need a last-minute and meaningful gift? My new book Joy Comes in the Mourning is a true story filled with hope and encouragement perfect for anyone on your list, and small enough to tuck inside a stocking on Christmas morning.
Jessica is a writer, musician, entrepreneur, wife, and mom. Jessica's mission is to write "real" - shining light into the dark places of the tough stuff we all experience. She and her husband Jack live in Houston, Texas and have weathered the storms of grief, infant loss, adoption, and a marriage that almost fell apart. Jessica and Jack have 4 children, LJ in heaven, Grace, Jackson, and brand new baby Elisha.