Advent: On holding & letting go

by Kristin on December 2, 2013

in Culture, ideas & paradigms

Photo by Emilian Robert Vicol

Imagine both of your hands are filled with something—maybe strawberries, or coins.

You’re clearly holding too much, and although some of what you’re holding is good (the plump, perfect berries, or the quarters), some of what you’re holding is worth little or even nothing to you. There are shriveled or mushy berries not worth eating, or pennies and foreign coins that just weigh you down.

What do you do? When your hands are too full, can you somehow filter the good from the bad, letting go only of the bad?

No, you have to let go of all of it—the good and the bad—before you can begin to be deliberate about what you want to reclaim and protect, and what you have been needlessly carrying around.

* * * * *

I have been so quiet, so distant lately. At some moments it has felt like I’m holding my breath—I’m ultra alert and on edge, unable to make a move or form a thought until I see what happens next. At other moments I’ve felt like I’m in a fog, breathing so slow and shallow that I’m almost not here.

Either way, I’ve felt paralyzed, stuck. Especially when it comes to certain things I used to care so much about: social media and building a platform, maintaining an identity and relationships with the “right” people, chasing after the version of success that’s most widely accepted in my broader community. It’s hard to care about those things because it’s hard to ignore the stark disconnect in my life—between the life I am living and the one I’ve been striving to live; between what I need to do and what I want to do; between the handful of close friends who know where I’m at and the many other friends I’ve been too exhausted to be real with.

Then yesterday, I sensed the letting go.

* * * * *

It started like this: All day, I had been trying to decide what to “do” about Advent. Should I choose a theme for a blog series? Should I start the #AdventPicADay project I’ve done on Instagram the last couple of years? I felt myself searching too frantically for something to photograph, then later that evening I tried forcing myself to at least Tweet something interesting, in observation of the start of Advent.

I had nothing.

It was then that I felt the freedom of letting go. And the fear. It felt too spontaneous, too random. I hadn’t thought through what exactly I was letting go of, or for what reason, what gain. I hadn’t spoken my intention aloud to Jason or to a friend. I was simply watching it all spill out of my hands. All of it. Good things and bad, the quarters along with the pennies, all scattering, rolling away.

I felt all kinds of things—relief, apprehension, sadness, confusion—but mostly I felt annoyed that I should be feeling it all on the first day of Advent, when I really wanted to be feeling other things (like wise, poignant, moved, and plugged in, rather than detached).

And then I realized I had space to hold a thought worth tweeting. It was something real and true:

Whatever this is I’m going through just doesn’t seem right for Advent, but maybe that means it’s exactly right: tension, struggle.

And then, when I shared something real and true, I found I was able to connect again. @gracebiskie responded, “IM WITH YOU sis. Hugs.” @suziwalks wrote, “ah, how life refuses to follow the liturgical calendar. I could write a book on that one.” And @emmillerwrites shared this: Incidentally, this doesn’t seem strange for Advent to me. Wouldn’t be hope candle if we didn’t need it.” Then she linked to the blog post she published a year ago, on the first Monday of Advent, “Born in our Darkness: Hope,” which reminds us of the promise that God will quiet us with his love (Zephaniah 3:17).

I don’t always need that quieting. Sometimes life feels straightforward and calm, all on its own. Other times, I might need that quieting but I don’t want it. I’m like the toddler who resists her nap, fighting what she needs most, choosing instead to wreck havoc until something breaks down, falls apart.

But here, on this second day of Advent, I can’t deny I need God’s quieting love. I can’t deny the struggle, the tension in my life. I can’t deny the sense of emptiness, the longing for truth in the fleeting stuff of the day to day. Perhaps I’m in exactly the right place for this season. I hope you’ll sit here with me for a while.

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  • rayhollenbach

    If there is one thing the systems of this world cannot stand it is quiet, loved, people. yet we each have an opportunity to stick it to the Man, quietly.

    • kt_writes

      So true. And somehow, even with all the examples of this in history, I still can’t understand how quiet, loved people can seem so threatening.

  • Natalie Hart

    I’ll sit with you in your stuckness, feeling even a little jealous that you let it go.

    • kt_writes

      Thank you for sitting with me, Natalie. And don’t be too jealous about the letting go—I think sometimes you have to reach a breaking point to do it, and that part isn’t fun at all!

  • Katie Noah Gibson

    So true, Kristin. Advent is shot through with tension – and I don’t think it’s going away – but I love the image of that quieting love. I’ll sit here with you for a while.

    • kt_writes

      So why do I have to re-learn these truths about Advent, each year? Maybe it has something to do with the joyful innocence of Advent I experienced the first half (or more) of my life, and the way popular culture reinforces that approach at every turn. It’s tempting to just turn up the joy and drown out the tension, isn’t it?

  • Stephanie S. Smith

    I’m with you here too. Thanks for this!

    • kt_writes

      I’m glad you’re here—I miss you! Advent blessings…

  • Erin

    I feel so very much the same way. Very “non-adventy” this year…but I guess that’s kind of it.

    • kt_writes

      We do get this idea that Advent is supposed to feel like something different, don’t we? I guess that’s why I think it’s so important to observe Advent in some way, rather than jumping to Christmas joy as soon as the Thanksgiving turkey leftovers are in the fridge.

  • Leigh Kramer

    I’ll sit with you any day of the week, friend. This is scary and honest and true. I’ll be praying for you as you sift and sort.

    • kt_writes

      Thank you for sitting and for praying. I keep wishing you and other “cyber friends” were physically closer, but maybe this quiet support from a distance is exactly what I need right now.

  • Michael Hadley

    This is exactly where I’m at. Intellectually I know life happens like this in waves, but emotionally? I don’t freaking care about how it happens or that it will go away. I’m just tired of dealing with it all.

    • kt_writes

      Exactly! All the logical platitudes in the world don’t help much when you’re right underneath the weight of the wave. I’m saying a prayer that you’ll find some Advent peace.

  • RonSimkins

    I love your straightforwardness about what is and not just what should be. Perhaps you are more like Mary who “kept on pondering these things in her heart” than you know. Thanks for being you and for being you for the rest of us.

    • kt_writes

      Thank you for saying that, Ron. The more I’ve learned about Mary, the more she has become a very real role model, not just the character in a sweet story. I pray that I will have the courage to keep pondering things, rather than giving in to the urge to have things figured out.