The other night as I drove home, I listened to the end of a newly burned cd and reflected over the days events. The music is a compilation of two Avett Brothers’ albums and half of a David Crowder album as well. It may seem an odd pairing but they are two of my favourite groups/singers to listen to, so for me the flow is quite natural–from blue grass to techie rock worship…I don’t think it gets much better for my musical needs.
That day I had an exam which went pretty miserably. I studied all the wrong things and was tested on the areas where my review had been weakest. Funny how that happens. I was probably the only one whose exam covered the Gospels instead of Acts. I’m sure Bl just glanced at me and counted out the exams in that order so I would get the one that didn’t cover the material I knew. Old family friends with high expectations do things like that, you know.
And then I hung out with some friends, which turned into hanging out with one friend. It’s funny how some relationships develop quickly and others take time. This one fits that first category. We hit it off right away and have been spending a good deal of time together since our earliest conversations.
That night we talked about some rough things. We talked about dysfunctional families, unhealthy dating relationships and mistakes we made in every possible arena of life. We hugged for a long time at the end and I think were both close to tears. There’s something refreshingly painful about being honest and open with someone. So much of life we walk in fear of rejection–at work, in friendships, in school, in marriage. The closer a person comes to us and our heart, the greater potential for pain when they discover something in us they don’t like.
As I drove home, the cd had switched from Avett to Crowder. He sang something I haven’t heard in many songs, or heard preached from many pulpits.
He said that Jesus loves us, we are loved and that is enough.
The title of the song is Happiness.
To think that Happiness is defined by the love of God reaching into our world and redeeming us from the pit, the muck, the mire, the mess.
I’m going to harp on Advent for only another week and a half.
But it struck me how it doesn’t seem enough.
I want so many things. I want the cockroaches in my apartment to vanish. I want to have more money so I didn’t have to work over break. I want a boyfriend. I want a bed frame so my blankets will stop falling off when I move at night. I want an Audi A7, or even just a hatchback, turbo Audi A6 would be nice.
But more than all that I just want God. I want to know him, I want to be known by him (or to be brave enough to acknowledge that he knows me in my deepest darkest secrets and the pettiest selfish desires). I want to learn to love others, to do it deeply and well. I want to be honest, but not selfish with my needs. I want to speak truth and wisdom, and I want to do it gently.
I want my friends lives to be better. I want them to be healthy, healed and whole. I want the dysfunctionality, the abuse, the addictions to end.
Advent is a bittersweet time.
My NT professors are all about the Kingdom of the “Here and Not Yet.” Advent is the epitome of that theme. Jesus has come, but Jesus is still coming. The Kingdom is here! Among us! I can sit on a rock watching shooting stars in the mountains with my friend and laugh and cry. We can be honest and real and we can do that because Abba gave us Jesus and we are being restored in him!
But I have friends who return to Christmas with families that cause pain despite being called “christian.” I have a friend whose father died of a sudden heart attack–who never saw his son attend seminary and never saw his own ministry come to fruition. I have a friend whose marriage was ended by “the church” and others whose families struggle with various addictions.
We are being restored, but there is much work to be done.
I turned off the highway tonight, behind the buses that patrol Colfax, looking for those who are lonely, homeless or headed to the nighttime work that is keeping their families alive and housed this wintertime. I cut across three lanes of traffic and slid along the solid sheets of ice that cover the road to my complex because the city I live in is too poor and too lazy to pay for plows and care for its people. All the while Crowder sang that to be loved is enough.
It is enough.
But then, it isn’t.
Because, while Jesus died and redeemed us from our sins, he is also yet-to-come and redeem the world from all its strife and pain and grief. Advent is bittersweet because we remember the glorious victory wrought in Mary’s womb! But we hold that in tension with the sorrow of today, the pain next door, the loneliness in our hearts. And we remember that while he has already come, we are still waiting,
waiting for him to come again.
It is painfully sweet.