“We often find ourselves in the dark-- good or evil or in between, of our own or another’s making.
Our work is to name the darkness for what it is and to find what it asks of us: whether it is darkness
that asks for justice to bring the dawn of hope to a night of terror, or for a candle to give warmth
to the shadows, or for companions to hold us in our uncertainty and unknowing, for a blanket
to enfold us as we wait for the darkness to teach us what we need to know.”
~ Jan L. Richardson from Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas
Before we step out into this season of Advent it may be helpful to stop for a minute or two and take inventory. It may be helpful to stop before we begin. In this time of stopping, let us be mindful of what has brought us to this particular time and place in our lives. We know well our brokenness and pain. We know the grief that is ever with us.
But / and have we thought about what else is here in this moment and time? What do we carry that might be too much for this journey? Is there anything that we can unpack, and perhaps leave behind for these coming days? Are there loved ones who are holding us close and maybe even holding us up? Can we invite them along for these next steps, these next days?
Jan Richardson is a dear friend. Poet, preacher, pilgrim who I have been graced to know since our seminary days at Candler. Jan’s words from Night Visions invite us to take stock as we begin this Advent season. She tells us what our work may be in these coming days, “to name the darkness and to find out what it asks of us.” Tenderly, mindfully, prayerfully we are invited into this soul work. I hadn’t really thought about what my grief is asking of me. By doing that perhaps a shift may come. By beginning a dialogue with my grief, I am invited in in a new way. I am invited into a new way of experiencing it, of interacting with it, of companioning side-by-side with my grief. This is no longer a passive time in my life, but instead a time of turning and entering into (what has always been) the heart of the matter.
In her poem “Wild Geese” Mary Oliver has a beautiful phrase, “tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.” I wish I could do that now, with you. It is in speaking and hearing the small and great parts of our stories that we truly hear one another’s hearts.
By sharing and reading this blog, you too may be going through a time of loss and grief in your life. Whatever it is – the loss of a loved one, a relationship, vocation, or dream, may this Advent bring you a season of remembering what has always been true for you as well as a deep welcoming of God’s faithful promise: Emmanuel, God-with-us. In our despair and brokenness. In our wanderings and wonderings. God’s promise is to be with us in those moments, especially those moments. By sharing this journey may you be reminded that truly, more light is coming.