A Beautiful New Reality
Every year many of us Christians struggle to find a way to be in a state of “not yet” while the world seems to be in a state of “now.” During a time of celebrations, feasts, gifts and extravagance, Advent calls us to be patient, still and reflective. Many of us cling to the image of Mary during this time of waiting. She had no choice but to wait. Her wait was physical, emotional and visible as her belly expanded with the days. Baby kicks and stretch marks were the words of prophecy and promise for her. Pregnancy is a waiting game. On the good days you embrace and enjoy the moment you are in- cherishing every feeling and the anticipation. On harder days you wince as you look at a calendar, wondering “how many more days of discomfort, worry, stretching and back pain?” The wait is physical, emotional and visible to everyone (and they like to comment on it). Waiting, preparing, making more and more room for new life.
The interesting thing about counting down the days of pregnancy is that you are actually anxiously awaiting something incredibly difficult and painful. When I went to the hospital having contractions with my second son Isaiah, I was hoping that the nurse would tell me it was indeed time. Even though he was a bit early, I felt ready. I did not want to be pregnant anymore and I wanted to meet my little man. I insisted on no drugs of any kind and no epidural. I calmly watched the clock tick through the night and the snow fall outside the hospital window. I helped Jeremiah figure out who would lead worship since it was a Sunday morning. I took deep breaths and repeated things like “faith over fear, mind over matter.” And then it got real. The nurse came in and looked shocked, she remarked on my change in demeanor. My calm, cool and collected face was replaced with discomfort, fear and dread. I remembered what it was like as the contractions got closer and closer together. I forgot about my mantras as my body contorted. The peace and calm was pushed out by a writhing pain that took over my entire body. Doubt replaced confidence. And then just when I announced to the doctor that she would need to do a c-section because I could not do it any longer, just when I had completely given up … new life. And within minutes I was blissfully holding a tiny baby with a perfect round face and asking my husband to please get me another Rice Krispie treat.
I found myself thinking about that memory in an unlikely place. I was sitting there in a dimly lit hospice room holding the hand of my dear friend. I was whispering encouragement in her ear and watching her husband encourage her by her bedside. There were so many physical reminders of childbirth. She was laying on her back as the painful cancer took over her body. Up to this point, during the months since she found out the cancer was back and it was terminal, she had prepared. She prepared her young children, her friends and family. She wrote letters, bought gifts, said what needed to be said. And I watched as the time came. It was hard. And then just when we started to settle in for the night, just after the hospice nurse left talking about increasing dosages … her last breath. I went home in a daze. I collected my kids from our neighbor and put them to bed very late. Jeremiah was at General Convention in Utah. I was worn out, hanging on the edge, about to fall into the depths of despair and just when I thought I could not do it, that I could not handle it, that the darkness would overcome … I laid down next to my then three year old and he asked me where I had been. I told him my friend died, he smiled and said “that’s good mommy because now she is with Jesus.”
Yes, new life. We wait with hope, we prepare, we make room, we count down, we try to say “not yet” to everything around us that says “now.” We look for hope and peace in a chaotic world that is full of fear and pain. Just when we think we can’t wait anymore, when this world needs a savior, needs hope … new life. A new life that changes everything, a new life that challenges us, that challenges the world we live in, that challenges our wish lists and plans and agendas and desires and relationships. It can be painful … but it is new life. A beautiful new reality ushered in with a tiny body. And just like my baby boys, just like resurrection … it is worth waiting for.
By Jen Williamson