“I hate this stupid church.”
With this pronouncement, my two year old beam of sunshine cast his board book onto the stone floor and proceeded to kick the back of the pew in front of us with all his might.
Meanwhile, the bishop was sealing the door of mercy a few hundred yards away.
All I could think was that I needed to walk through that door a few hundred more times before he closed it up.
* * * * * * *
After the solemn Mass at the Basilica, my family drove back through Washington, D.C. on our way home. As we passed the Capitol, I noticed that the scaffolding had been removed since I had last seen it. I had two thoughts about this: 1) maybe the prayers I hurled at the building as we drove past will be able to penetrate more deeply into the walls than before, and 2) maybe the whole thing will just crumble and fall down now.
* * * * * * *
As we enter this week of liturgical no-man’s land between the Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe, which ends the Church year, and the beginning of Advent next Sunday, I feel a little lost. There is no playlist or devotional guide or special set of prayers for this week, for the in-between, for the days in which we must wait to begin our official season of waiting for the birth of Christ.
There’s Thanksgiving, of course, and there are things to do to be ready for Advent, too. Normally, this trips me up- I have to hurry up and get ready! so much to do ahead of time to prepare so that I can prepare properly!- but this year, I’m not anxious about preparation. There are a thousand more important things to be anxious about than whether I can find the wreath form I usually use for our Advent candles and whether anyone will give me any magnolia leaves for decorating.
The fact is, I can’t wait to start lighting those candles. I don’t care if they are just sitting on a paper plate on the kitchen table this year. I am just so done with sitting around in the dark and twiddling my thumbs. I am done with reading the news and feeling my pulse quicken and my blood pressure go up. I am done with scrolling through Twitter and Facebook, clicking hearts over here and a sad face over there and an occasional angry face on a story about a billboard in Mississippi.
I am so done with all this useless activity that passes for doing something.
Being informed is good. It’s good to know what’s going on. It might even be good to know how other people feel about it. What’s not good is feeling compelled to read four stories about the same issue to be sure I’m getting all the perspectives, then cross-checking those perspectives with the ones I follow on Twitter (which are different from the ones I follow on Facebook, so I have to check those, too). What’s not good is feeling so emotionally affected by the news stories I’m reading that I can’t muster the energy to actually get up and do anything about it.
The time for scrolling passively, if there ever was such a time, has passed. What’s needed now is prayerful contemplation of the depth of the darkness in which we find ourselves. What’s needed now is careful conversation, talking and listening with open minds and hearts in a genuine exchange of thoughts and perspectives. What’s needed now is to ask God, “What are you requiring of me?”
Things I am pretty sure God is not requiring of me:
- a perfectly cleaned and decorated house
- more time spent on my phone finding out what other people think about the issues of the day
- more time reacting to those other people’s thoughts by clicking on emoticons
- more time reading about the negative impacts the incoming administration might have on the country
- more time reading rebuttals of those articles about the potential negative impacts
- more time hitting “refresh” to see if there are any articles I haven’t read yet
Things I wonder if God is requiring of me:
- deliberate steps taken to remind us that we committed to keep Jesus at the center of our family life
- more attention to the places He is already present, casting light, restoring brokenness, making things new
- more careful words that promote a climate of kindness in our home (instead of snappish words that spread around the anxiety I have been feeling)
- more time spent in actual conversations with people whose perspectives and life experiences are different than mine, even if I have to go to some trouble to find those folks
I think what I’ve been lacking lately is focus.
With that in mind, I’m going to take a break from all the scrolling during Advent. I’m going to stop reading so many news stories and start looking for God in the little things that are actually in front of me in real life again. I’m going to try to find concrete ways to be Christ to my brothers and sisters, whether they live in my house, on my street or on the other side of the globe. I’m going to light candles with all my heart…because I think candles lit with heart are a good first step in battling darkness.
Candles (regardless of the amount of heart with which they are lit) do not fix problems, especially overwhelming, centuries-old injustices with complicated history and huge emotional entanglements- but they do keep us from sinking into the darkness of despair. Candles lit with heart are a rallying cry. Pick yourself up. The darkness doesn’t win unless you let it. Go out with your light and do something to make the darkness less dark.
Meanwhile, the Light of the World is still coming. All the darkness in the universe can’t stop Him. Take heart. And in the meantime, do your part to make things a little brighter.
If you’re looking for a way to focus and make things a bit brighter, come join us on Instagram for #HolyLens. Daily photo prompts based on the scripture readings for the day will start next Sunday, November 27. Take a photo as a way to find the holy in the middle of the ordinary, and share it with our community as a way to push back the darkness a little bit.