Monday, December 12, 2022
These December nights always feel darker to me. Darker than even a couple weeks ago, darker than I know it will be in a month or so from now. In our heads we reason that it’s because the earth’s orbit is just doing what she does and is making her way around the sun. In our hearts during these Advent nights, this time of waiting for the coming of a promise-kept, this is the time that understands our feeling of a deeper darkness. 2022’s Advent feels even more tender for many of us. This December, this season many of us are journeying to Bethlehem with wounded and weary spirits.
Earlier this year, David Lewicki, my pastor at NDPC in Atlanta preached a sermon about hope. He talked about ways we do and don’t do hope. About ways we trust it and doubt it. About ways we cling to and lean on it. “Hope doesn’t matter,” he said, “until nothing matters more.”
This Advent I am leaning heavily on hope. I am listening with a tender heart for the hymns and prayers of encouragement. I am lighting candles, trusting that the love that has brought me thus far will continue to guide me on. Left foot, right foot. Sometimes it’s the best thing, sometimes it is the only thing I know to do.
“…until nothing matters more.”
For seven years I was privileged to work as a chaplain with hospice. For most of that time I was the bereavement coordinator and supported family members for the year after their loved one died. During those years there were so many stories of connecting and re-connecting, of steps forward and back and forward again. Stories of endings and beginning agains. Stories of holding on and letting go.
I’m thinking today about a woman whose husband of 73 years had died and she’d invited me over to her house for lemonade. It was a hot and humid Atlanta day and when I pulled into her driveway, I saw her rocking on her front porch. She and I had talked several times on the phone, and it wasn’t until I’d pulled up the second rocker and she offered me something to drink, that I realized she couldn’t see. During our conversation she said that she had lost her sight over the past several months. As we rocked and talked, she described all the flowers and trees in her front yard, and I realized she was no longer seeing them, but that she knew them by heart.
She told me that she and her daughter had decided that she could no longer stay in this house and that she would be moving into an assisted living to be closer to her daughter. “I never thought I would leave this house, or even thought that my husband would die. But my daughter’s right, I need to do this. It will be hard for me to learn a new place because of my macular degeneration, but it’s what I’m going to have to do.” And then she said, “Lesley, I need you to help me with something. Come and look inside.” We went into the house, and she described every painting on the walls of her living room and then her bedroom. “When I move in, I need your help putting these paintings on the walls in my new apartment. I want them to look just as comfortable on those walls as they look here. I want my daughter to know that I’m going to be alright and that I’m at home in my new place and that she doesn’t have to worry.” Hope doesn’t matter until nothing matters more.
As we sit alone late into the night and sometimes early into the coming of morning – hope companions us. In these hours when nothing matters more, we trust that we will (once again) hear a bird or two or maybe three sing, and that our hearts will be nudged a bit in our listening. We will turn our hearts to where we trust the light will come, even before we feel the warmth on our faces. We hope because it matters …
(Breathing in) "Hope comes"
(Breathing out) "to the place where the hurt is"