Can I be honest with you for just a second? I know, I know you expect nothing but rainbows and unicorns over here. I usually forsake the reality and paint life like a Lisa Frank folder on the first day of kindergarten 1984…. If I am honest, I was sort of hoping the Mayans were right and today was the end. I know, even typing it I roll my eyes at the dramatics of the statement. But it is true. Lately my prayers have sounded something like this: I am done, this is too hard, I am hoarse from shouting into the darkness and I can’t fight for joy anymore.
This isn’t the depression talking; this is something else. It seems I have been tuned in this year to certain words in the carols I have sung forever and forever ignored, words that speak of the earth as weary, groaning, needing relief. Seriously Lord, how much longer are you going to make us wait? How in the world can I find joy in this place? This doesn’t even make any sense.
This morning, as I pulled into the driveway of the house I grew up in, I saw a glimmer of what I am looking for. When I was in the first grade, the giant pine tree in the side of our yard fell down in a thunderstorm. That year the Easter bunny hid our eggs in it. The same year my sister Jill went to an arbor day celebration and came home with a pine tree sapling. She planted it next to the stump of the old one. I don’t think that anyone but Jill thought it would actually grow.
For about three years, when there was enough snow that school was canceled Jill would get up anyway, put on her boots, and dig that dumb sapling out of the snow. I stayed in bed and rolled my eyes. This digging was worthless.
The tree is now full grown, as tall as the other trees that were full grown when my parents bought the house. The tree made it, the digging mattered.
I am not the first person to wait on the Christ child. The Israelites did it the first time, the believers in the new testament were sure the second coming was eminent, my dad says as a child of the cold war he was a little stunned when he made it to thirty. I am not the first to look around and decide that my actions, desires, prayers mean nothing against the darkness of the world.
The digging out that I do, the candles in the dark that I light, the whispers in the darkness matter, even when it doesn’t feel like it. Perhaps, especially then. They matter because they point in both directions, to the savior who already came, to the promise he is coming again. They matter because occasionally they grow into big and beautiful things, a testament that someone cares.
Today, I feel like lying down, like saying, “It will snow tomorrow, so why the heck should I dig today?” I dig today because this is not forever. I dig today because I know that one of these tomorrows joy will come down again, just like he did the first time, just like he promised.
One practical way to light a candle in the darkness is to write an encouraging letter to the men who are investigating with The Exodus Road. I can’t imagine the darkness these guys face every day as they seek to end sex slavery. They often feel alone and the silence that is necessary to keep everyone safe and the investigations on the right track only makes the candle they hold that much heavier. So tonight, I will choose joy for them, and write a letter in my own hand to tell them that they matter. And in the digging, I hope to find joy while I wait for the one who will make it all right.
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