I’ve long loved the Advent symbolism of waiting and expectation. Never have I felt more ready for the coming season than this year, when all in me groans with waiting and longing for a more perfect kingdom. The Spirit has been whispering to me that this needs to be a season of less and not more.
I went to Twitter to ask friends how they find quiet space during Advent. I got answers about less commercialism and social media fasts, getting outside, devotions, and books. It’s not the busy and the commercialism of the season I am struggling with. Living in a land where Christ’s birth isn’t celebrated helped me appreciate a small Christmas and it’s joys.
No, this year my heart is aching with the need to get outside of my own head and into a more spacious place of the spirit of Advent. One writer proposed finding a question to guide you and said this year she is asking, “What does my soul need this season?”
As I sat with that question, the list became clear pretty quickly. All year I’ve been filling up the quiet with words. I love to read and listen to podcasts. I tend to want to fill in all the empty spaces with more knowledge, wisdom, and depth. This has a place. But it also leaves little room for the still voice of God to breakthrough. (It’s also a handy way to avoid the real-life issues I don’t want to be quiet enough to face). My soul needs a spacious, quiet place to connect with God instead.
I also think about how my physical body groans as I round middle age. I stand at my writing desk when I’m too tired of sitting. I stretch aching joints and stiff muscles. But I also know the pains in my body reflect something far deeper than sitting too long. My soul needs more movement, more rest, more laughter, more walks without destinations, and more avenues into joy.
On the morning of Thanksgiving, the light was just beginning to creep through the still amber leaves outside my window. I sat listening to only the hums of the refrigerator and heater, my kids starting to stir. I decided to turn on some Christmas hymns but never made it past the first one. I just kept listening to these words over and over:
O ye beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.
I don’t know about you but the whole world feels like it is groaning to me this season. Family and friends are carrying heavy burdens and I can’t see past them right now to the glad and golden hours that await. I need to spend some time intentionally looking for more than a just continued path down this weary road.
I sat down that morning and wrote out a vision for what I’d like my month to look like in just a few areas: my physical body, my time spent seeking God, and time with my family. And then I wrote out some boundaries that would help protect my soul from all the noise waiting to bombard me.
I wrote out goals like getting outside everyday and turning off all the podcasts and avoiding any reading this month except for Scripture and the short Advent devotional I picked. I wrote out goals I have for my writing and deadlines I needed to meet.
…And then the next few days happened, some heavy things I cannot and will not be sharing here, and those goals felt trivial. I threw them all in the trash.
The goals now felt more like: keep breathing, hold onto my family with all my might, and find ways not give up under the crushing load.
I realized what my soul needed in this season was to stop everything but these things: Loving God and loving the people right next to me and putting one foot in front of the other.
So, I’m signing off of any activity online for Advent. I need to work a lot harder for some quiet space in the days ahead. Before I do, I wanted to leave this here for you in case you are feeling the same way…
When the load feels like it is crushing you, may you be reminded that Jesus’ burden is light.
When you are bending low, may you find ways to look up.
When life feels like a slow, painful climb, may you find a place to rest.
May you find Jesus in the noise and the quiet, the messy and the beautiful of life in this and every season.
And may you remember nothing else is needed but this.