Sunday, November 30, 2014

Advent: The Paradox

photo credit: tatum teels

Lord, deliver!
Rend the shiver
As our swollen
bodies lie
In the dark net
of the "not yet"
where we, wandering,
fear to die.
From "Adventus"

I sit down this evening to write and my heart is full with so many things. I am happy because I have spent the last several days with the best sampling of family and friends. I am overwhelmed by the generosity of people who have not much more than we have ourselves, yet give lavishly. I am wistful because we are having our woods cleared and replanted and there is an ache inside me when I think of how pillaged it will long those trees grew. I am grateful because I know what it is to love and be loved. I am cozy because the sun curtsied goodbye with the colors of saffron and I am cold because there is none of summer's riot to the show. I am perfectly content and discontent all at once, happy and sad, up and down, satisfied and yearning, peaceful and anxious.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. It is perhaps the only month in the twelve where the paradoxes are realized in this old event of waiting for the coming. The coming of Christ. The re-coming of Christ. We are content, peaceful, gentled, joyful in the assurance that it will happen. We are unsatisfied, anxious, pacing, saddened that we wait yet a while longer. And the preciousness of this season for me is the permission to feel myself torn in half sometimes by the beauty that is not yet versus the beauty that is right now. I often find myself upset by the many, conflicting minds of me. Have you ever felt your soul wrung by the fact that though you long for heaven's joys, there are beautiful moments that belong peculiarly and perhaps only to earth, and you wonder if you'll miss them? Moments like laughing so hard that you choke on your lemonade; moments where you slowly freeze with a friend's arm thrown companionably around you while you watch the sun set and nearly suffocate with bonfire smoke; moments where an Irish beat pounds as you reel down and down and down a line that never ends; moments where the stars are so clear and close you feel as if you could reach up and pluck one. Maybe in the new heaven and on the new earth, we'll have lemonade and choke with laughter too. I'm certain there will be sunsets more glorious than any I've seen here. Maybe there will be wild Celtic dances in the timeless time and we'll never retire with aches in our sides. Maybe the stars will be ours for the touching and we'll wear them in our hair. Perhaps it will be all these things and more. I know that the stabs of joy I experience in these earth-moments are so precious to me because they are reflections of the joy to come. But there is a fierceness in me that clings to earth because it is home. It is not home, but it is familiar. The familiarity is a home in itself. Heaven is unfamiliar, or rather so familiar it seems strange, so homelike it is almost unrecognizable as home.
So I long for earth.
And then I hear news of wars, plagues, uprisings, children brutally murdered by psychotic parents, abortions, terrorism, pain. Pain everywhere. And when I think it cannot get worse, death happens. I know our souls are immortal, that we are beings created for eternity, but again, earth has a beauty of its own. Because I live here, I want to be comfortable here. I don't want to know that if one of my beloved friends or family dies, that I will never be able to see them again until eternity. I want them to be here to snort lemonade with me, to nearly suffocate around the bonfire, to make my arms ache with the force of a grand reel. People sicken and grow old and their bodies belong less and less to earth. I wait for things. I wait for many things. I wait for a man who will pledge his life to mine and sometimes the waiting is especially hard. Not because I am tired of waiting, but because the people who are growing old and sickening belong to my heart. I want my grandmother to be at my wedding more than anything. And while time wears down her body and her lungs grow weary, I am still waiting. There are no men. There are no weddings. Will there be no Grandmama as well? And in those moments I ache as I have never ached before with wanting eternity. No more wars. No more separations. No more death. No more sickness. No more strife and arguments and tears and financial worry. I sin again. And again. And again. I doubt, I stumble, I fall, I rise, I deny, I admit, I inflict hurt, I ask forgiveness. And some moments I hate my beloved earth with a passion deeper than all the rest. I long for Christ. To be in His presence and have all this blown away in the glory of Himself. I thought I wanted earth when what I really want is eternity and a life in His presence--literally. In His presence. Able to reach for His hand and wander an amber wood and just adore Him. This is the thing for which I was created and I realize that I'll never be at home on earth. Earth is just a passing-through. Glory is beyond. But the real kicker? I'm stuck here. You're stuck here. We're stuck having precious earth and wanting wondrous heaven. Loving heaven but clinging to earth. Aching for what we'll leave, breaking for what we know is before us. The End is withheld. For now. It is coming but it has not come. You aren't imagining the feeling of pacing a room you love, scenting change in the air, knowing that any moment the glorious unfolding will gloriously unfold. But the "will" is not the "has."

Advent is a paradox. Your paradox, my paradox. Christ's paradox.
Weakness and strength.
Baby and King
Here and There
Now and Soon
We are the "and" in these arrangements. We don't belong to either world yet. Too much alive for heaven, much too immortal for life. But we have been called to a paradox and who are we to complain? Life is the messy bits. Our call is to live the paradox and draw into it the souls around us. Advent is the time when we remember this. The ache under my breast-bone is not a bad thing. The love I have for this life and the passion I have for the next are not meant to be lived one or the other. Somehow they combine. Some messy, messy way they do.

Advent: the coming. I wait with open arms.
"For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace; Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end." -Isaiah 9:6-7


Suzannah said...

Love this, Rachel. :-)

As for whether there are Celtic reels and lemonade in the new heavens and new earth, I'm all but certain that there will be: Revelation 21:26, after all!

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is very deep. Thanks for sharing some of your heart. :-)

Abbey Stellingwerff said...

Beautiful. A wonderful thing to be reading while listening to advent organ music on the radio.

Hannah Joy said...

Wow, I got goosebumps and tears in my eyes reading this. Beautiful, Rachel.

Abby said...

Just heard a sermon about God's Kingdom yesterday, and I like to think about it. No matter what pleasures are in Heaven, God will be there and that's enough. Beautiful post. ♥

Rachel Heffington said...

Thank you, girls. <3

Miss Dashwood said...

I should like to inform you that this post has been nominated for the Inspirational category in I'd Like to Share over at my blog. ;) Nail on the head and all that, Jeevesie.