With over half a dozen radio stations moving into all-Christmas music formats these days and the malls filled with stuffed bears singing Christmas Carols and everyone generally getting into the holiday spirit with Thanksgiving squarely behind us and Advent just a day away, I have only one thing to say.
Stop rushing Jesus.
How often in our lives do we want God to come on our time? And what we most often find is that when God does actually enter into our lives (which is, in fact, daily) and we bother to notice God, that God is right on time.
Most often, my picture of God is in the person of Jesus. I can imagine Jesus walking with me in my most desperate hours and me asking Him why He has waited so long to intervene. And instead of some schmaltzy hallmark card answer like “those times when you see one set of footprints were the times I carried you,” I hear Jesus saying…
“Um, I’ve been right here all along, dumbass!”
Often people reach out to me when they are in great pain and I hope that most of the time I can journey with them in their pain. Because that is what I believe that God does with us as well. I know I’m far from good at this because most of the time I don’t want to be bothered–and even mores, I don’t want people to bother with me when I’m down and out. I choose to push people away and say that I can face matters all on my own.
And when you ask people who are facing suffering about their experience, most often their understandable reaction is that they feel God’s absence. As if God is a sadist and is the one inflicting their pain.
But the truth is that God suffers with us. God doesn’t like cancer, or car accidents, or when kids get shot in schoolhouses. God hates it just as much as we do when young people die accidentally, or someone commits suicide, or someone we love gets sick and never recovers.
And because God loves us enough to give us free will, inevitably bad things happen in the world. And faith calls us to trust that somehow, God redeems our suffering. That tragedy never has the final word and that evil really wants us to believe otherwise and keep us all in desolation.
We all hope to rush consolation..but suffering has a time commitment. We all need to take time to heal–to allow God to heal us, so that we might stand a bit stronger next time out, so that we might learn from mistakes we may have made, so that we might be a bit more sympathetic to others when they end up in the same boat.
And so we might realize that we are not God.
But that God loves us anyway and will redeem all that we suffer and cries when we cry.
We often want to hold someone in suffering and tell them that it’s OK. And the truth is that at the moment, it is very much not OK. Last year I watched a family howl in despair when they gathered to mourn the death of a young man. He was their son, their brother, the father of their child, a friend. A distinct voice of a young woman cried out “THIS IS NOT OK!”
And darn it, if she wasn’t right?
And I hope she knows this day, that God didn’t think it was OK either. None of us could rush her healing. None of us could bring God a bit closer to her in that pain. Desolation and grief are sometimes too overwhelming even for those of us with the strongest of faith.
But when we realize God’s care for us, God’s presence with us…
That’s when God comes right on time.
I believe that this is what Advent is all about. We wait for God, but most often, it is God who waits for us. God waits until consolation can show to us that God is already present. We wait for the mist to lift from the fogginess of our desolate doldrums, so that we might see a bit more clearly the tears of God, crying with us in our pain…crying out from the cross in agony when we are too, crucified by our own crosses.
And God hopes that our fears, our anger, our hatred at times, will not get the best of us.
My colleague, Fr. Tom Colgan, S.J. had a remarkable insight last week. He was meditating on the scene where the “bad” thief rebukes Jesus on the cross. He thought about this guy and the soldiers and all those who jeered at Jesus and mocked Him.
“Man, I hate those people!” he thought.
And the voice he heard from Christ on the Cross was: “I don’t.”
He then thought about all the people in his life who drive him crazy. And he felt the same anger and said “OK, maybe I don’t hate them, but I don’t like them very much.”
“I don’t.” Again, that same cry from the cross.
I took up this meditation myself recently. For me the scene had me at the foot of the cross feeling helpless. “There’s nothing I can do to change this!” was my only thought as tears streamed down my cheeks with John and Mary standing arm in arm with me.
“I can.” came the cry from the cross.
And then…”You just wait.”
Later I meditated on the journey that Mary and Joseph may have taken to bring the Christ-child into the world and I thought of Jesus stirring in Mary’s womb saying, “Don’t rush me, I’m right here and you just wait.”
Perhaps that is our need for this advent. To ask ourselves what is it that we are rushing in our lives? And what might we need to slow down and savor for just a few extra moments?
In those few extra moments, we will find God.
And it will be more than worth the wait.