I don’t go to the mall much. It’s not that I don’t enjoy shopping for Free People Anthropologie Uggs and massage gift certificates, (yes, dear this is a hint) but maybe like yours, our disposable income is a little harder to come by this year and honestly we’ve accumulated enough stuff over the past two decades to warrant a break from buying more of it. So the last time I really hit the mall was October sometime. The Mister and I were there for a big Friday night out with our girls. (Read: no good movies to be found and we couldn’t come up with anything more exciting to do.)
We opted for fine dining at the food court, a bit of strolling and a pleasant but firm no thank you to the Chinese massage guys in the red shirts before a final stop at Auntie Anne’s. As we headed down the hallway we couldn’t help noticing that the holiday decorations were already coming out, shiny big red Christmas balls hanging from the ceiling and press-on window decals proclaiming Share the Season! Give Heaps Get Happy! Lowest Prices of the Holiday Season! There was piped-in music pointing out that it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas. (No, it wasn’t.) Just a whole big bunch of tacky reminders that retailers were breathlessly awaiting the arrival of their holiest day of the year, Black Friday.
And suddenly a feeling of resentment swelled up inside of me, and I wanted to run home and not come back outside till January. Doesn’t it seem like the psychological holiday warfare starts earlier every year? Or maybe this December I’m just more sensitive, seeing as how it’s pretty hard to ignore the season of Advent when you’re navigating through an uncomfortable spiritual adventure.
My journey continues, but the dark night of the soul has begun to surrender to dawn. Recently, I had a friend liken the advent of his spiritual crisis to walking into a room and immediately getting an Oh crap feeling. Turning back around to make a quick exit, he realized the door had shut tight behind him. And it was locked. Despite being more an unwilling participant than eager convert, he couldn’t go back, only forward.
That really resonated with me. There are still unanswered questions, but they are slowly being joined by new places of quiet knowing taking form in my heart that make it easier to see mystery as a friend instead of a threat. Mornings arrive now with the sense of hopeful expectation – an advent of something that will be wonderful.
There are as many answers to the question What is the true meaning of Advent? as there are churches in Williamson County. But this year, the meaning of Advent for me is this: It’s hope and love in its purest form, and it’s forgiveness and peace and possibility and completion. It’s the beginning and the end of all life as we know it and it’s pain and joy and sorrow. It’s why I will get up tomorrow morning and try to find what part of the Mystery is mine to reflect. My journey will not look like yours, but the Child of the Advent draws us to the same final destination.
I actually went back to the mall last night with the Peanut and surprisingly it wasn’t as painful as expected. We did a little shopping and ate our usual food court meal (chicken and rice and cucumber salad, in case you’re wondering). Even waved hello to Santa and his elves, although Peanut turned down my suggestion to sit on his lap. I particularly enjoyed the people watching; a lady wearing a giant lobster necklace, a sales clerk with heavy mascara on his lashes and a sweet 80 year old couple dressed in their best duds for the big night out. (She had on knee high boots and a cabbie hat.)
Isn’t God creative? We are all so wonderfully unique. While I do think God has a tender spot for the ones who struggle more than most, we are all the Beloved and, as Richard Rohr so beautifully points out, in God we are given extraordinary dignity. Which is also pretty good news this Advent season, don’t you think?
I’m very grateful for some special human beings who have helped me welcome Advent this year:
Gungor (Beautiful Things)
Richard Rohr (Everything Belongs)
Madeleine L’Engle (Bright Evening Star)
Steve and Stan and Melissa and David and Thaddeus and my Wednesday and Thursday fellow-seekers (thanks, guys!)