Advent 2 (Wednesday) :: When Christ Comes Disguised as Our Lives
I’ve been in denial since I entered this Advent season, and it’s taken some painful, honest, and vulnerable moments with God to admit this.
Several weeks ago, I noticed a pervasive sense of irritability in my life. It was a vague uneasiness — nothing specific I could point to — and as much as I tried, I couldn’t peg the source.
Irritability doesn’t seem compatible with Advent. Each time I would notice my irritation popping up, I’d push it back down “in the name of the season.” Being irritable seems far less holy than a pious, contemplative posture — especially during Advent.
And yet, the irritability remained.
It showed up in conversations and relationships. It showed up at home. It showed up at work. It even showed up in church. This last one surprised me, as church is where I find my greatest spiritual connection, peace, and strength.
But at our first Advent service, I found it hard to concentrate. Normally, I get absorbed in the liturgy and Eucharist. On this particular day, I found myself getting angry with God, and I couldn’t tell you why. I couldn’t name a reason.
Dismayed by this, I then found I couldn’t focus on any of my daily Advent readings or prayers, either. Anger kept rudely interrupting me. We were only a week into the season, and already I felt defeated (which only reinforced my irritability!).
Have you ever had the feeling you needed something only God could provide but you had no idea what it was, let alone how to ask for it?
This all came to a head one day on my 15-minute drive to work. I encountered not one, not two, but three drivers who pulled right in front of me in traffic. My brakes are still smoking from slamming them so hard that day.
After the last near miss, I unleashed my fury at God. This wasn’t a conscious decision. It just happened. Words spewed from my mouth I didn’t think were possible for me to say to anyone, let alone God. I’m embarrassed to admit I’m capable of saying some very nasty things to God about God.
After my litany of accusations and insults, I gathered myself together and was left feeling mortified. Those words I unleashed were filled with so much anger, pain, confusion, and hate, all directed toward the God I have come to adore.
Thanks to conversations with people who know and love me best, like Christianne and my spiritual director, Bill, clarity has begun to surface for me around all this. I'm noticing some unnamed, unacknowledged, and unhealed emotional wounds that have been festering in the deeper recesses of my heart. When the wounds happened long ago, I suppressed them — stored them away in my emotional closet for safekeeping, then threw away the key and forgot about them.
But the soul will have its due.
My soul is showing up in this season with a message that it can no longer bear the weight of suppressing those harmful, burdensome offenses. I didn’t know it was time to face them, but my soul did, and so did God.
Richard Rohr is often heard saying, “God comes to you disguised as your life.” And this is one way God is coming to me in this Advent season: through my anger that propels me to beat on God's chest.
My outbursts at God in this season are exactly what my soul needs. I need to claim my truth with Someone who knows all the darkness, dysfunction, and shadows within me and still loves me to the core. That’s the only reason I know I can do all that banging upon God’s chest when it happens.
It is tempting to enter Advent with only a view toward its “upside.” It’s tempting to stand in a pious posture, focused on the blessings, the music, the gifts, the festivities. It's easier to look for God “out there,” in peaceful church services, helpless infants, and mesmerizing lights.
But had I been looking only at the “upside” view of Advent, I would have missed this.
I would have missed God coming to me disguised as my life during the very season we’re invited to look for how God comes to us. If I had insisted that God only comes through church services, Scripture, innocent infants, liturgy, and devotions, my issues would have remained buried — unnoticed for who knows how much longer — and how much more of the real life God intends for me would I lose?
God’s clear invitation to me during this Advent season is, instead, to remain open-minded about what it might mean for God to seek a greater nearness with me.
I leave you with a helpful prayer I recently discovered:
let something essential happen to me,
something more than interesting,
let something essential happen to me,
Speak to my condition, Lord,
and change me somewhere inside where it matters . . .
Let something essential happen in me
which is my real self, God.
—Ted Loder, Guerrillas of Grace
I pray that you find your “something essential” as God comes to you this Advent.
How is God coming to you disguised as your own life in this Advent season so far? How are you responding?
Come share your response in the Advent Meditations group.
Until next week, every good wish.
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