I am at the for.
I get stuck before I even get to hope, because I don’t know what is next, and what to hope for, and sometimes hope seems like setting myself up for disappointment.
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for…”
Last year, advent dawned and our home warmed with cries and bottles and three stacks of little laundry. We could not know that the pregnancy of life-giving loss would be aborted before a full-term farewell had passed. We could not know what a year could do.
So now, this year, we find ourselves in recovery, still, and we do not know how long it will last, how long it takes for eyes to heal. We do not know how long it will take before we are cleared to adopt or foster again. We do not know how long it will take before the innermost parts of our hearts feel brave enough for the task. We do not know how long it will take to know exactly what we hope for.
Since all plans were aborted, and we entered the fight of our lives, we have also changed careers. It was calm but it was also unfortunate and deeply sad. We dearly miss some of our friends who have moved on for a season or for the rest of this life; reality seems to reset every month. Some of our extended family is suffering and some of our friends have been betrayed by the ones who should protect. Our youngest son is having seizures again and we cannot protect him from disappearing in those long moments, from the hospital trips and diagnostic ordeals. We are doing our best to chase down the tests, the appointments, the paperwork, but my courage sometimes fails when I consider all the calls, meetings, and documentation we just barely survived. Tonight we celebrate his birthday because his actual 3rd birthday will be spent monitoring his brain in the hospital.
This last year, outside the walls of this home, there have also been tragedies of terrible injustice and evil, of a much grander and sweeping scale. The kidnapped Nigerian young women largely ignored by the media, the mass stabbing in China publicized here by the NRA, the millions of Syrian civilians on the run, having no place to turn from the multi-layered war behind them. In our country, incredible and embarrassing disrespect for the President and the crippling Congressional gridlock. The continuous abuse of power against defenseless young men of color, and the ensuing racism from all sides, disunity and the institutionalization of injustice.
These are all the things that make me wonder, partly incredulous and partly desperate, at the word Hope this advent season–this waiting, empty and hollow, expectant and needy, season. Wonder, what is it that can hydrate this hope within me? What do I hope for, apart from this grief, away from that anger, aside from the exhaustion of just do-the-next-thing? What are the wide places in the new advent, the new scary journey of opening up for a coming Savior?
One thing I know is that hope is catching. So while I am waiting for the For, for the Next–swimming in all this empty–I will be present to the hopeful around me. Those expecting babies, milestones, and breakthrough. My five-year-old who is looking forward to Everything and uses words like “brilliant!” and tells me I’m a genius because I hung Christmas lights. My two-year-old, who happily sing-talks about the baby girl who will always be a baby in his mind. The one whose birthday is forcing us to bake and decorate and party before his actual birthday, and before we are actually ready.
Before we are actually ready.
Before we are actually ready, this advent season dawns with Hope. Unnamed, unknown, and leading. Forward.