This Advent, I’m thrilled to offer you the voices of some articulate storytellers— writers with wisdom to share about how their experiences of pain or loss is birthing in them something beautiful. Not in a Pollyanna sort of way of course, but in the spirit of what Leonard Cohen once wrote: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
And isn’t Advent is all about light shinning in the darkness?
Advent. The time of year I get to say: “This season snuck up on me this year!”
When we think about it, when are we ever ready? When are we ever ready to wait…. ready to plan…prepare…. do all the things our hectic culture demands of us and then somehow dig around in our ridiculous schedules to find some time to be with God?
It seems a little bit odd to find myself in this state right now, especially during Advent.
My second child, Michael, was born on October 6th. The night of his birth was long, painful, and exhausting.
When he finally came into the world, it was clear that although it was his due date, he still was not ready to be here.
I barely had a chance to look at his little, slimy face before he was rushed off to the nursery. Four hours later my husband and I learned that our pediatrician wanted him admitted to a special children’s hospital in Louisville. And so nine hours after giving birth I found myself in the passenger’s seat of my husband’s Jeep driving an hour and a half to see my baby boy and to hold him – wires, cords, oxygen and all – for the first time.
I consider myself incredibly lucky. His lack of response at birth did not herald an illness or complication. It was simply precautionary reasons that he was in the NICU. So what happened? I guess, to put it bluntly, it took him much longer to wake up than it should have. It took him longer to adjust to the cold air and blinding light of life outside the darkness of the womb.
But he was supposed to ready! It was time for him to come! Lord knows I was ready. And he should have come easily and quickly and painlessly because all second babies do, right?!
And me – I am supposed to adjust to this new life with a toddler and newborn easily, quickly, and painlessly.
And Advent – it comes every year and we should expect it and be ready for it and be filled with joy because it is a joyous season!
We know the culmination of our waiting comes in the beauty of Christmas Eve candlelight.
We know the promise of God in a tiny baby is coming again to save this messed up world. Easily, quickly, painlessly.
Except that it doesn’t work that way. It never does. Not for any of us.
I fool myself every year thinking that this Advent will be different. And I fooled myself before Michael was born thinking there would be no pointless tears this time around.
I ran across one of Mary Oliver’s poems the other day titled, “The Uses of Sorrow.”
Someone I loved once gave me
A box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
That this, too, was a gift.
I have walked in the darkness of postpartum depression once already.
And I know that the grateful joy that lives in my heart will once again register in my brain. I didn’t expect to be in this place for a second time. But I feel its ugly head rearing as, one by one, another candle is lit on the Advent wreath.
So once again, much like my sweet boy, I find myself struggling to adjust to the cold air and the blinding light of life. Life outside the darkness of depression.
I’m just not ready yet to be the person I know I am; to live the beautiful life I have been given; to smile without faking it.
And yet, because I’ve been here before….and because there are so many beautiful people in my life who will hold me up….and because I trust in the promise of “God with us”…..I will wait through this season that I’m not ready for, and I will live to see the light shining brighter than before. I will be better, stronger, and more giving because of it. And hopefully, so will my precious children.
Because it takes years to understand that darkness is a gift.
Anne is a co-pastor with her amazing husband, Jeff, at an awesome Disciples of Christ church in rural Kentucky. Not only do they live together and work together, Anne & Jeff also parent together with their 2 year old daughter, Abbey, and 2 month old son, Michael….along with two dogs, Patch & Pepper, and a cat, Skeeter.
Anne enjoys the relational side of ministry and has been exploring the spiritual practice of journaling and writing for a few years now. Writing about her experience with postpartum depression is something that is new and a little bit frightening for her…. especially because she loves her children more than she could have ever imagined possible, and the gratitude she has for her life and family is deeper than the sea.