By Michelle Derusha—
I’m not feeling very Advent-y this Advent. I don’t have that sense of anticipation—the expectation that is often present in the weeks leading up to Christmas. I’m not feeling all close and cozy with Jesus or particularly prayerful or joyous or even spiritual. I’m just…here. Slogging. Going through the motions.
It can make a person feel like a real loser. I mean, really, who doesn’t feel Advent-y during Advent? Who feels emptiness instead of fullness? Absence instead of closeness? Scarcity instead of abundance? Something akin to grief instead of joy?
I find myself wishing it were Lent instead. Somehow these feelings would seem more acceptable during Lent.
What’s worse, after reading a beautiful Advent blog post recommended by other bloggers, instead of feeling full, grateful or in awe of God’s grace and love, I felt…nothing.
Truth be told, I felt worse than nothing. I felt jaded and cynical and hopeless. Not what the writer had intended, I’m sure. It shook me up. My reaction to that post was like a punch to the gut because reading it made me feel like I’d failed.
Failed in my faith.
Failed in my relationship with God.
Failed in my weak attempts to find Jesus in Advent.
That beautiful blog post brought everything I’d been feeling, everything I’d squelched and smoothed over and pretended didn’t exist, right to the forefront in technicolor clarity.
When I first started down this wild, weedy path into the deep, dark wilderness, I thought it was all related to my career and my calling as a writer. The book I’d poured my heart into had tanked; my publisher had let me go; I wasn’t sure where I was headed next. Lately, though, I’m beginning to suspect this jaunt into the wilderness is about God’s work in me—not just as a writer or a person called to a particular work—but as a person, period.
Early in this wilderness journey, I was brimming with hope and anticipation, eager to see what God was going to do next. My faith was full and robust. I was nervous and anxious, yes, but it was an excited, anticipatory nervousness. I was poised to embrace God’s next big thing for me. I couldn’t wait to see what God would do.
That was three months ago. I’m still waiting.
Turns out, this wilderness—this period of refining and transforming God has led me toward—feels a lot less exciting and anticipatory right now. In fact, it feels quite a bit like labor—of the childbirth variety.
Michelle Derusha is the author of Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith, 50 Women Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Heroines of the Faith, and her most recent book, Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk. She blogs about living out faith in the everyday at her blog, MichelleDeRusha.com.
This article is excerpted from the December 2017 issue of Gather magazine. To read the full story or more like it, subscribe to Gather.
I think God can do a better work in our hearts when we are honest. That is the point at which He can start – our brokenness is the breeding ground for growth. I know that your words will bring a lot of hope to many this year because not everyone will connect good thoughts about every Christmas moment. Just because it is the season of joy does not mean that our feelings will always match up. I truly think God is okay with us being real with Him. Peace and truth go hand in hand.
This article was written in 2017, but is a timely one for now! You are spot on for how I and I, imagine, many people are feeling! Yes, that could be me saying those words. I trust (however small that feeling might be now) that God will reach out to both of us and everyone and lead us by the hand, or carry us through this uncertain time. Perhaps I won’t think Advent but rather go back to Isaiah and read again what is in there for me in chapter 50 the words of comfort I need at this time. And the words in Romans 8:38-39 which gives me a few more boosts. Or John 16:20-22 referenced in Michelle Darusha’s article. My prayers will be for all peoples of the world during these trying times. Thank you Michelle and Gather magazine!