Holding a pink candle to the dark

by Kristin on December 14, 2010

in Belief, doubt & hope

Photo by bulinna

In my advent post last week, I came to the conclusion that I’m pretty sure I know where Jesus is: “…in the simple, humble, modest places…wherever there are people who are most needy and vulnerable, who are feeling most alone and hopeless.”

So if he is there, what am I doing mostly over here?

Well, if you want excuses, I’ve got plenty. I’m extra human in that way. I can start with the very same excuses I have for not getting this Advent post up on Monday, as planned: There was a snow day, so the kids were home with me. I had a two-hour conference call with a client, and another deadline. My throat started hurting, and now I have a cold. Jason is out of town, and I’ve been solo parenting. Wah, wah, wah.

What’s really in the way?

Once my laundry list of excuses is out of the way, I can begin to uncover some of what lies beneath them—the real stuff that gets between me and Jesus, and gets in the way of my ability to share love with those who need it:

- My assumptions about people and my tendency to dehumanize issues

- My selfishness, and my inability (or unwillingness) to truly see others

- My jumbled priorities, and how they leave me scattered, distracted

- My cynicism, and a sense of feeling overwhelmed and hopeless

Those are the things that really prevent me from drawing close to Jesus, even when he is near.

How can I overcome all of that?

I could just beat myself up, bullying myself into doing better. But maybe the secret to a better route lies  in the pink candle. This is the third week of Advent, so we’re lighting the third candle—the pink one—which represents joy. It’s a time to rejoice because the Lord is near—to celebrate, not to make excuses or to beat ourselves up. While the other three candles in the Advent wreath are purple, the color that represents penitence and fasting (as it does during Lent), the pink candle is a reprieve, a reminder of where our hope lies, and why we can be joyful.

Often it feels like a false, mind-over-matter exercise: Joyful in the face of the world’s suffering? Joyful in spite of my shortcomings? Yes. Joyful even when it doesn’t make sense alongside everything else—especially when it doesn’t make sense. The concept itself is so other-worldly concept that it hardly makes sense! So although I’d love to be able to dissect it and figure it out in a rational fashion, I’m going to try meditating on it this week, instead.

Joy over matter. I’ll let you know if it gets me over any of these hurdles, closer to joy.

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  • Trina

    Hoping I didnt miss your point, but if you dont experience and embrace joy, how can you hope to share joy with those you encounter? Love, T

  • http://salvagedfaith.blogspot.com Katie Z.

    @Trina is right… I think in some ways, without joy we cannot move ourselves to reach out to others. We have to know that there is a possibility of things being different. We have to know that God desires something else for others and for ourselves.

    When Mary sang her song of joyous proclaimation – the song we lift up on the third Sunday of Advent – she was singing about God’s reality. While there were still poor and hungry around her… she could see ahead to the day when that would no longer be so.

    If there will always be poor and hungry with us… we are overwhelmed and hopeless… but knowing that the day will come when the low will be lifted up gives us the strength we need to make that reality happen here and now.

  • http://thealchemistblog.wordpress.com Genevieve

    Just the opinion of someone who has no religion:

    When you beat up on yourself, you beat up one of the places to find divinity, right? What if god wasn’t something you had to look for? What if the looking is the noise that drowns god out? And what if the laundry and all that isn’t standing in the way of finding god (unless we let it)? Perhaps there’s something of the divine in the daily religion of washing our clothes, cooking for our family, caring for all the worldly temples around us?

  • Joi

    This is really good Advent stuff, Kristin. Yes, I think we are called to be truly introspective about exactly this question. I’ve been consciously confessing my list lately, not so bold as to publish my junk like you have done here! Seeing our real selves shakes us up. Without the grace of God, how can we change what we see as our dark side? We are all called to repent, to desire to be all God created us to be. And, honestly, as we all know, we are mostly not able to begin to self-help our way to a more whole, well nature. I think the JOY is in recognizing that the center of our understanding of Jesus, who we believe is God translated for humans (the Word made flesh, as the Bible puts it), is the message that God truly has deep compassion for the complexity of who we are and desires to mentor/save us to a wiser, fuller life where we are willingly connected daily to God. We can actually take the list of stuff that we recognize as self-centered junk, negativity, etc. and consciously bring it humbly to God for an overhaul. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6. We hand it over – “lay our burden down”, as the song says, and fully aware of our shortcomings, realize/believe that the healing process has begun. The joy is in this honest relationship with God where we keep recognizing, over and over, that God is always waiting, not to condemn us but to keep having permission to walk with us on this journey and participate, day by day — it’s a process — in God’s transforming work in our lives. We let go of all the “shoulds” and let God mold us into new creations — which can sometimes be a very slow, humbling process. But from time to time we will be blown away by the reality of how God is at work in us, and that is real Joy! The more we return to God, the more we will experience it. This understanding is at the core of true Christianity.

  • Dan J

    I sometimes get a “How can you be in such a good mood?” kind of response from people. What’s so bad about being happy? We all take joy in a variety of things, and life provides a lot of things to be happy about.

    I’m glad to be able to share in some of your joy this Christmas season. :)

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    Trina, you definitely didn’t miss my point—if anything, you caught it, packaged it up nicely, and delivered it back to me. This was one of those posts that I was trying to figure out as I went. “What am I saying? Where am I going?” Kind of like life, eh? :) Thanks for your insights.

    Katie Z, I absolutely agree with you and Trina—the joy is critical. But I think some of what I was (am) trying to work through is how you find/embrace that joy, especially when it’s not coming naturally. I often sit there, waiting for joy to come to me, instead of *deciding* to take what’s there, conjure it up, etc. You know? I guess that’s part of what the third week of Advent is for me: deciding to live with joy, no excuses (as you said, “…we need to make that reality happen here and now.”).

    Genevieve, you are thoughtful and wise: “What if the looking is the noise that drowns god out?” And this: “Perhaps there’s something of the divine in the daily religion of washing our clothes, cooking for our family, caring for all the worldly temples around us?” Thank you for sharing these thoughts as gifts with me.

    Joi, yes, it turns out that “good Advent stuff” isn’t always the way I used to picture it as an overly romanticized child. :) I love what you’ve said here, especially about God’s compassion and his role as a “mentor”: “…the message that God truly has deep compassion for the complexity of who we are and desires to mentor/save us to a wiser, fuller life where we are willingly connected daily to God. We can actually take the list of stuff that we recognize as self-centered junk, negativity, etc. and consciously bring it humbly to God for an overhaul.” Little by little, I feel like I’m (maybe) starting to *get* this. :)

    Dan J, I really admire your attitude. I imagine it would be easy for you to go the “woe is me” route, but you chose not to. Here’s to choosing joy!