This is the season of the Bittersweet.
In the late darkness of last night, an image of a starving child came up in my reader as I caught up on the blog happenings of the week. Much like the picture of Umi. I'd seen the particular picture before, like most have, but the reality of what I was looking at hit me like a punch in stomach. A baby, lying in the desert sand, slowly starving to death and all alone. It was just too much. The sheer gravity of this world and its brokenness and depravity crashed heavy onto my shoulders and I felt the tears start to fall.
Then I heard my girls stir in the room for their late night nurse. I got out of bed and walked in the dark, crying, to their room. I sat, nursing, blubbering, asking God why and at the same time thanking him for the sweet little heads cuddled on my lap.
It's not fair, that my children should be warm and well-fed and that poor baby sat in the desert sand waiting to die. Where is his mama? Who can help? My tears dripped onto their heads as I tucked them back into their beds and stroked their soft baby skin. The last words I remember thinking before falling asleep were why, God, why?
A week ago, our good friends' former foster son ended his life. So much hope, so much promise for this quiet and kind young man. He was innocent, doing his best, but something drove him to despair and he just couldn't do life anymore. And then today, a crazy person walked into one of our local malls and started shooting. Two people lost their lives and a young teen still fights for hers. It's not fair.
Ever since I was a young girl, I've been especially sensitive around the Christmas season. Now that I'm a mother? Ten-fold. A hundred-fold. The darker and softer parts of me surface in their tear-stained glory and the slightest thought of someone feeling alone, or mistreated, or unloved leaves me completely undone. I feel like I'm walking around with my heart in shreds, exposed and raw and flapping in the wind.
And then I remember that it is Advent - the Arrival. Of what?
Hope. Not the little plastic baby in the manger with a painted-on-halo kind of hope, but the Emmanuel - God With Us - who came down to restore - is restoring - this world to rights. Oh, the tears still come strong. I still ask and cry out for answers and demand that He work faster in one breath and sing Joy to the World in another, but amidst the staggering paradox of this kind of faith, I find a moment's peace.
In this moment I realize I might be thankful for the tears, for the overwhelming heartache, because they're my call to action. They mean that I am fully human and I'm here and I've experienced life-changing love and I'm connected and that my life can - will - mean something more, all of me and this tattered heart. The glory of God is man fully alive (said St. Iranaeus), not just in joy, but in all our grief and brokenness, too.
What is moving you this Advent season?