—The following was a reflection I wrote for a friend’s research group for her doctoral studies on how the Doctrine of Creation could inform our understanding of suffering and how we walk through suffering. And because the group met during Advent, and because Advent is one of the best things ever, I thought about that too. This is a reflection and a personal response and doesn’t totally represent the fullness of what she taught us. Luckily, there’s always more blogposts! —
What story do I live out of? I have the words of my friend Ann running through my head a lot lately. Do I live out of the story that says I must fear – fear evil, fear people who are different, fear scarcity, fear constant and debilitating effort? Do I live out of a story that says things will never change because they never have? What is the story I am living out of?
It is advent so we are sitting, waiting, in a familiar story. The story with words thrown around like hope, and joy, and love, and peace. Those are wonderful themes….but honestly they aren’t doing enough in their glittery presence on every cushion or candle or random piece of reclaimed pallet wood. Ok, that sounded a bit judgy but there is a temptation, for me at least, to let the ease of these words keep us above the actual story a bit too much sometimes.
And the story we are waiting for is…..
…Is one of generations of hard, harsh, prophets standing way out in left field trying to get us to see. The story is one of revelation – to a little girl, from a no name town, a forgotton lineage. The story is one of a dark, dirty birth, blood on an unfamiliar floor. And from there it goes.
The Story grew, a baby into a child, into a man. He grew within us, within his people, like a sapling inside a huge hollow tree; with his young mother – being taught by her, being taught by her husband, his uncles, his grandmas, his siblings. And He taught them too, like all children do. He laughed with them. He disagreed with them. He worked with them, heard about the prophets, the psalms, the Fathers with them. He studied Torah with them. He heard and discussed the Romans, the nobility, the occupation with them. And he did this while increasingly understanding, or maybe remembering, THE STORY that he lived out of, the story He started, the story He finished.
We talk about the Word made Flesh. We talk about the God who is With Us. And this is it. We believe that Jesus of Nazareth, in his peculiarity, his particularity, his own personality quirks, his own scars on his hands or face or shins from a life walking on this earth, was The Very God Who Created Everything. The Very God now intimately intertwined with this world. I keep wanting to get to know this Jesus. And it has changed my story from one that kept me above this world, apart from it, to one that plunged me down into its realness, fullness, emptiness and physical, graspable promise of presence.
To understand the story, we have to take this Word made Flesh and remember it back to the beginning. To say Jesus was at the creation of the world is to say that the part of God that reaches out to us in our very real, very physical spaces in order to be with us, to walk with us, is the part of God that desired that at the start and desired that in that dusty armpit of the world and desires it with us now. His intention was to be WITH US– as we ate, as we explored, as we learned, as we slept, as we made love, as we awoke and took our food again. This is still his intention.
And now, even now, when the world lives out its multitude of stories, and we are broken down by them, He invites us to that with-us Story. You know the one where he wants to walk beside us, even in our darkness, even in our own guilt, complicity. Even when we are not winning, not succeeding, not fulfilling. Even when we are not hoping at all anymore. When we are so alone we can barely find room for a breath, let alone see out of it to where we think the promises have to be. There He is. In the place of no breath, in the place of our inability. Because that is what He desires more than anything else. More than praise, more than worship. He desires us to know Him there. He desires us to start reading the Story there, in that place of His intimate presence.
And I can’t help but wonder at how the story opens up our eyes, and our ears, and we start to see flashes and glimpses of the expansiveness of Him, how we start to…….remember nothing less than deep, vibrant hope of life with Him- even in these, our own smudged and broken details.