Advent 3: Joy and the Third trimester

I am not a happy pregnant woman, not in the third trimester especially. One year I came to a new school to teach about 2 months before I gave birth to Priscilla. Upon my return my students would tell me that they were really scared of me coming back. I had apparently left pretty cranky. It didn’t help that my one year old wasn’t sleeping through the night and wasn’t walking so I had to schlepp her everywhere. It was awful, and totally hilarious.  I used to make my 16 month old crawl to the car.

I was on the struggle bus that last tri-mester. And then I went into latent labor. Latent labor is when your body is for sure contracting, but it isn’t really doing anything. I went to my weekly appointment about two weeks before my due date and I just started crying.

There is this thing that people say to you when you are huge and pregnant and none too pleased about it. You see they look at you and smile and say “well sweet heart, no one is pregnant forever.” And you will want to punch them and tell them that you think you are about to be the first.

Thank God my midwife did not say that. She rubbed my back and held my hand. I know this part is hard she said. I am sure you are miserable. You need to do one thing every day that brings you joy. One tiny thing, every single day, you need to find joy. So I did. I went to a movie, I got a fancy cookie, I read books I loved. I got through the waiting by finding the joy. Sometimes it was all I could do to cling to it. That tiny piece.

Waiting is hard. It can be excruciating, and there have been years in advent that it felt like some cruel joke, to talk about the joy in the midst of the shit-storm that is life. Joy? You have got to be kidding me. It felt cruel to ask people who are suffering to look for the joy. It felt stupid, like a fools errand. More and more I am becoming convinced that joy is for those who are waiting. It is imperative to keep on keeping on. Joy is the secret weapon in waiting for the ways of Jesus.

I shouldn’t be surprised by this. The people who taught me the most about joy were the boys I used to hang out with in the youth detention facility last year. Yes, they were locked up. Yes, they had it rough, yes life was hard and very unfair, and the way they laughed when we were playing games, the way they begged to be read to out of silly children’s books left me breathless.

Waiting is terrible, and waiting without knowing exactly when and where things are going to shake out is even harder, and waiting when you are oppressed, or in pain, or exhausted, or desperate is so so so hard. Which is exactly why we need joy. And I can’t help but think that finding joy in a prison, or while so pregnant you are sure a baby is going to fall out of you, or the powers that be seem to be coming down upon you with no plans of letting up, is just training for finding a baby in a manger when you were expecting a king. I think learning to choose joy is training for seeing God.


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