The Pain of Advent

The Pain of Advent

*This post was originally published December 2, 2013. While much has changed in two years, my wait is still there. Actually, last week we found out the wait time for Ethiopia was extended once more. This is me writing not from the victorious finish line, but from the messy middle. While I wish it wasn’t the case, I know many I love find themselves in the messy middle of a wait too. This is a call for all of us to remember He hasn’t forgotten us. Advent is a reminder of His faithfulness to those who feel forgotten. 

IMG_8072It wasn’t yet December, but because of holiday travel, we had decided to begin Advent a few days early. I counted out twenty-four waxy candles and placed them in a box, each one awaiting its addition to our advent wreath. We hung on the wall a discarded fir branch, and I cut out little squares depicting images of each story that would create our Jesse tree. I wanted to feel anticipation. I wanted to wait in expectation. But my heart hung heavy like marbles in an old sock.

The irony wasn’t lost on me. Here I was committed to intentionally experiencing Advent this year and here I was snared in the wait. I opened the first page of The Greatest Gift, tears brimming because I already knew what God was trying to teach me, a lesson that prickles my anxious heart. Lydia saw my tears and walked over to me, “What’s wrong, Momma?” I told her I was missing EEOO, wishing this journey didn’t have to be so hard and ready to have EEOO in our arms. My sensitive girl hugged me tight and said, “She’ll be here soon, Momma. We just have to wait a little longer.”

Our home is outside the city limits and because of that there are no street lights in our neighborhood. Especially this time of year when it gets dark so early, I can drive all over town and never see a single star. Among the streetlights and store signs, the car lights and lit-up billboards, the stars become muddled, lost in the contrived illumination we’ve created. But upon entering our neighborhood, a million stars whisper their hellos. They were there all along, but I couldn’t see them until my world got really dark.

As we remember Advent this year, as we turn our focus to the expectant wait, I am having to face my own darkness. This past week has been incredibly discouraging on our adoption journey. Another big form to renew which means another home study update which means more forms, more interviews, more of the same stuff we’ve already done. More delays. October only had one referral and November had none. None. That word slices my heart. With every month that passes our wait increases, not just in anxiousness but in literal days. When we began this journey our wait time was twelve to eighteen months. Now, sixteen months in and we see that wait time slipping further and further away. Meanwhile, dozens of children wait longer and longer in orphanages. And my heart breaks. It cracks and splits and cries and doesn’t understand why. Some days I’m strong. Other days I’m just tired. Tired of fighting. Tired of waiting.

These are the days when I have to remember what Mary did. She treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Mary knew what it was to wait, and she knew what it was to see God’s faithfulness. These are the days I have to pull out my journals and remember. I remember our wait for Lydia, our wait for Charlotte.  Along the margin of a page in one journal these words from Romans are scribbled, tear-stained and desperately penned, “Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Here’s what Paul knew vividly… In the pitch-black of night, the stars are most resplendent. In the darkest hour of our waiting, hope pierces through like a star in the east.

In a world that says comfort is everything, it doesn’t make sense that suffering gives birth to hope. It seems more like suffering smothers hope like a wet towel over a flickering candle. Often, I feel like hope would swell if I could just hear some good news about our adoption or if I could see the wait times decrease. But the hard lesson I’m learning is God does His life-changing work through my perseverance in the wait. Yesterday, my pastor taught from Isaiah 8, and I’m claiming verse 17 as my anthem during this Advent season, “I will wait for the Lord.” My hope comes not from getting that which I desire. My hope comes from being used by my Redeemer to pen His love story, to be the black and white words that illuminate faith and hope for those around me.

At the start of our new series, Everything Changed, my worship pastor introduced the song that inspired the name of the series. My heart quickly tethered to these words…

When our dreams grow dim and our hearts grow cold
He is never far away from our broken soul

At the start of this Advent season, my soul feels broken, my heart fractured and vulnerable. Today and in the days to come, I will wait for the Lord, hunkered down in the darkness, at peace with the wait, but looking above to a blanket of stars, each one shimmering hope.