Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Dread of Advent

As December has approached, a time of year I have always loved, my heart has grown a little heavier. As I realized today that tomorrow is church, that tomorrow is a Sunday in December, it finally occurred to me. Day 1 of advent. Christmas countdown. That time of year when everyone talks about God in the form of a child, when we talk about waiting on the arrival of this little baby, when people read poetry about motherhood in an attempt to relate to what Mary may have felt. The time of year when I am told that to truly understand Christmas better, I need to focus on this concept of Advent. Of waiting. Of expecting. Of not rushing or wanting or striving.

The thing is, I feel like my whole year is lived in a quiet, but painful, advent. Of waiting and expecting. Of not having any control or ability to rush any of this. This year's Christmas season marks the 5 year mark since we started trying to have a baby. Five years ago it was exciting to think about waiting on a physical baby as we waited on the Christ child. That excitement has long since worn off. The rest of the year is one month after another with no results when it comes to that initial desire. With reading books about waiting better and faithfully desiring God and not focusing on this baby. Or finding articles and poetry and art that speaks to perseverance and hope. Of seeking to be content without another child. Of fending off questions and trying not to be annoyed when people try to attribute this particular wait with God's lesson for us or our own inability to learn something he has clearly been trying to teach us or being told for the 100th time that once we stop caring, then we will get pregnant or our adoption will come through. Yeah. Because all my hundreds of friends around me who have tons of kids didn't care about being pregnant. Clearly that's the trick. Manipulating God or anatomy or whatever into making this happen. Sounds like a good idea.

So when my husband asked me a few minutes ago if we were on for our usual plan for church tomorrow? My heart sank. My stomach began to churn. I began to wonder how many glowing pregnant women would totter down the aisle while the band plays "Away in a Manger" in the background and I try to look at the floor instead of envy their bumps. I began to wonder if our church here, in their desire to make and show videos on Sunday mornings, would come up with some artistic portrayal of motherhood and expectancy that I'll have to sit through. In short, I began to dread church. I began to search for legitimate ways to opt out of a gathering in which I normally find life and hope. I began to worry that I wouldn't be able to actually see God through all the God-infant imagery that will now bombard us for the next 25 days.

I hate that. I hate that this wait and the pain within it has robbed me of my favorite season in the church. I hate that I cannot overcome my sadness and my longing and just be able to fully enjoy the advent season. I hate knowing that come Christmas morning when my son places the baby Jesus in our manger scene at home, my heart will also pang with the knowledge that while that manger is full and that should be enough for me, our crib is still empty and I am still waiting.

And to be honest? I don't really know what to do next. People tell you to not think about it, to find other outlets, to pursue contentedness. To just seek God and not what he can give me. But how do you seek God well in a season where every avenue is reminding you to seek Him in the form of a baby, a form that only highlights your own desire for that good and beautiful gift of children? How do you do that well? Most of the year I can conveniently ignore the Christmas story and focus on the Easter one. But advent? Advent feels like one more big reminder that while I can wait on the Christ-child, while I can cultivate my experience of expectancy of what God can do, at the end of the day our long, physical wait still goes on.

And I am exhausted. I wish I could say I'll definitely push through and go to church anyway tomorrow. I don't know. I wish I had some neat package with a lovely Christmas bow that would tie up these thoughts. But much like advent itself, much like all the uncertainty we like to talk about as we celebrate it, all the fears Mary and Joseph must have felt, all the confusion about their future, this post doesn't have a neat ending. I will wake up tomorrow. Maybe I will go to church or maybe I will stay home and take a very long, cold jog with Tim Keller on my ipod. Most of the day I suspect I will be happy and enjoy my family and look forward to class on Monday morning. I will find joys in the quiet moments of the day. I may even listen to Christmas music. Most likely, though, I will not sit around and ponder the birth of Jesus. And I suspect God is ok with that right now.


  1. Beautiful post. This season can be incredibly hard. We just lost our Noah this October. I Should be celebrating this holiday season still pregnant with him. Holidays can be hard enou, but the focus n pregnancy and babies is like a mirror for pain

  2. Written three days after the birth of Nathaniel Jaceyon Ogrosky. Welcome home precious long awaited child!