Advent Darkness: Waiting For A Child

He-qi AnnunciationI started this post a couple days ago. And then the Connecticut shooting happened yesterday, and my mind and heart are reeling along with everyone else.

Wednesday I was laying on a couch in a relatively cozy lounge for pregnant women at the local hospital. I had to do a 3 hour glucose tolerance test (because I failed the 1 hour) and tried to fight off nausea by ignoring it. Damn that sugary-drink-I-stomached-so-easily-my first-pregnancy-before-I-found-out-I-had-gestational-diabetes. I’ve turned into a bona fide, grade-A weenie. Granted, this time around I’m a couple years older. I was (hopefully) getting over the vomit bug from yesterday. I was tired – twins-running-me-ragged kind of tired. Maybe that’s why I feel like the diagnostic is so much harder this time around.

I can’t and shouldn’t complain about any of it. There’s too much to be thankful for in the twins and BABY #3.

Friday afternoon I was running running running around – came home to move furniture around – babies napping, and my babysitter shows up, and she says, “Did you hear about the shooting in Connecticut? At the elementary school?” I’m clueless. And in shock. I’m trying to process it but telling her what I need her to do with the kids, and how I need to lie down for a little bit before taking a mattress over to our storage closet. I can feel myself blabbering and not making sense.

I went upstairs and started reading on my phone. And immediately started bawling. The babies woke up, and she took them downstairs. I felt like I needed to run to them and just squeeze them for the rest of the day, but I stayed in the room. I was losing it. I didn’t want to lose it in front of the babysitter and the babies.

I’m not sure what I’m trying to say – just that I’m using this space to process a little. I’m carrying guilt because of all the complaining I do about the crazy babies. I’m scared to bring another one into this crazy world. I’m crazy angry. I hate guns. I don’t care about hunting or the 2nd amendment. I want to get rid of all of them. If you want to hunt I say use a machete, slingshot, bow and arrow, or your car. All I know is that the legislation we have in place right now DOES NOT WORK. And, then I think about how this kind of thing happens all the time in this country, we just hear about a select few for whatever reasons (I’m not going to go into that right now). Kids getting gunned down every week in Chicago, Atlanta, and then all around the world.

I’m sinking. I find myself slipping into that darkness. Not even flailing my arms and legs, but just sliding down into that abyss of hopelessness and despair.

But I do know what I need to save me.

I need this season. I need Advent. I need Christmas. I need God-Incarnate. I need Emmanuel.

I came across Denise Levertov’s poem called the Annunciation:

Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
only asked
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
perceiving instantly
the astounding ministry she was offered:
to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power – in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love –

but who was God.

I originally was going to write about being a little sick of all the beautiful imagery of the angel’s visit, the young and inspiring Mary huge with child, and pictures of the rawness of birth and labor and delivery, and how hard it was to be bowled over with grief because of these images. Andy was planning to preach on the holy conversation between Elizabeth and Mary, and specifically, the Magnificat this Sunday, and I remember when reading these words would make me…Angry. Bitter. Hopeless. After the twins’ arrival, I looked back on this time, and wrote a reflection on hope during Advent last season for a synchroblog on Provoketive and how much I wrestled with it when we were first trying to get pregnant. Even though I am pregnant with #3 right now, those feelings and memories are still fresh in my mind. All those negative pregnancy tests filling up our trash can in the bathroom. All the reading about what to eat, what to do, what not to do…books and books stacked up on my desk. All the passing thoughts and advice from people about relaxing or looking into adoption or waiting. And then the monthly roller coaster ride – my heart overflowing with hope, even when I tried not to be hopeful, and then to see them dashed to the ground over and over again.

I intended on gently shouting to all those blogging and sharing pictures of babies – birth and labor, and all those images of women weeping with a newborn on their chest – TO STOP. PLEASE. Because even though the incarnational expression of these photos certainly add so much more to the story of God’s entrance into the world through the undeniably beautiful means of messy and bloody and traumatic, in other words, real birth…the point isn’t Mary. The point is Emmanuel. God-with-us. And what that may look like for each person in whatever season, no matter how empty or full, desperate or joyous, hopeless or satisfied.

But.

I need those stories now. Those pictures. Even if I still do feel the pain – along with so many who are trying, wanting, or can’t have babies – I need them today. This weekend. This month. I need to see God in those babies. I need to see God in all those women giving birth to babies. I need to see God in Mary bearing in her womb the Christ-child and giving birth to this baby Jesus.

So as pregnancy should inspire in the best of worlds, I anticipate and expect and hope as much as I’m able. I wait on the edge of my seat. I sit up straight, and stubbornly hum the words to the Magnificat in the darkness because stories and songs have a kind of magic that helps keep the monsters of despair at bay. I wait because I think that’s resistance. Like Mary’s song. Like women who have been singing and sharing for thousands of years. Like Emmett Till’s mom speaking words of love and justice and not hate. I wait because even that can be a protest. A demonstration. That’s revolution. That’s the beginning of change. That’s bearing God’s kingdom. That’s the essence of hope in this season. I wait with others this Advent letting myself feel in my body the wonder and longing for this baby. For The Child. I wait even as those parents waited for their children – not knowing whether they would see them walk out of that elementary school again or if the last time would have been the sight of their backs as they ran through those school doors just that morning. I wait in the darkness. I wait in hope. I wait clinging to God’s promise like a tiny branch barely growing out of the ground keeping me from being swept away by a river of chaos and confusion.

I’m just going to end with the following litany written by Rev. Ashley-Anne Masters published at Fidelia’s Sisters which seems pretty applicable to this season, and especially in light of the tragedy (I added the bold italicized). It’s about parents and kids.

For those who got pregnant right away and those who have been trying for years…

For those who entrust their babies to the care of another family…

For those who cannot wait to welcome a baby into their home and those who are terrified they are not fit to be parents…

For those whose child will get a soccer scholarship and those whose child will never run…

For those who proudly pose for pregnant photos and those who shamefully hide their bellies…

For those who are proud to be fathers and those who hope the DNA tests are incorrect…

For those who pay child support and those who need child support…

For those who fight with teenage daughters and those whose daughters have run away…

For those who cannot pay for college and those who cannot pay for medical care…

For those who home school and those who fear their children won’t make it home from school…

For those who think their son is the best surprise of their life…

For those whose children are in prison and those whose children want to be corrections officers…

For those whose baby doesn’t live outside of the womb and those whose wombs are empty…

For those taking hormones and those who feel exhausted from hormone changes…

For those grieving what will never be and those amazed by what life has become…

For those who are single parents and those who are now step parents…

For those who have an empty nest and for those whose nest was never full…

For the couple who is closer than ever and the couple getting divorced…

For those families who have lost children to senseless violence…

For all of your children of all ages, hold them close and give them life…Amen.

[Images from the artist He Qi]

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