Dwelling is a strange concept. It’s a place and it sounds like an action: the relevance to Advent is both. The blanket fort that took over my home last Sunday was the perfect incarnation of both the noun and the verb. It was a space for the kids to occupy, at the same time it was simultaneously falling in and expanding. And it seems an unlikely coincidence that it took shape as we await again the God who dwells among us.
I want God to be tidier, more majestic, more powerful. How I want Him to arrive when the blankets are folded neatly in the closets, along with the laundry! Can I just confess that I want to usher Him into my curated life – instead of my actual one?
The fort is so prone to destruction. It is vulnerable to the vengeance of a little sister’s frustration. Exposed to the shifting of furniture to stake out larger territory, its walls are a perilous and ineffective sound barrier. Sounds too much like my heart for my comfort.
Sunday afternoons are made for blanket forts and folding laundry, for board games and visiting. All this happened today around and in the fort. And I forgot about dwelling and got caught in the resisting. I want the dwelling to be constantly peaceful, and I tried – unsuccessfully – to make it so.
My heart is such a shifty dwelling. It is an imperfect place of love for this little family of ours, bruised and collapsing in on itself even while it is growing larger. Simultaneously, my heart is active, beating with life in spite of me. All my attempts to correct sketchy behavior in my kids only made things worse. And they still asked for another game and hugged me tight at bedtime.
Maybe this is why the people expected a king and God sent a Baby.
Our baby sat on the floor in the middle of all the mess soaking it all in. He watched in wonder, screeched for attention, giggled until he toppled over. He avoided having his nose wiped at all costs and took a nap. Before it was all over, I tucked him into bed, and he drifted off to sleep in his crib without leaving us.
There is so much upside-down power and possibility in dwelling. Taking up the skin of the ones you love makes one irritably unavoidable and preciously present. There is time in dwelling for delight and disaster, for trying and taking a rest. Dwelling is full of yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows.
God is not waiting until we have it all together. I dare say that Jesus doesn’t care when or if the decorations are up, the baking is done or the sheets get changed. Longing is a place we can live and an action we can cultivate right where we are.
If I did something right today, I longed for God to find me here. Twenty minutes into a fifty-minute tantrum, I remembered to whisper for help. It came in the form of a bubble bath at an unusual hour and an adjustment to the plan for supper.
What if the baby actually is the king? What if the fort is actually the Dwelling of the Prince of Peace right in the middle of the bickering? And, what if our hearts are the beating and precarious places in which the Mighty God desires most to dwell?
I can write the words but just the idea of it fills my eyes with tears, and the certainty slips out between my fingers like the baby grabbing at flowing water. God is dwelling here and cannot be contained here at the same time. I need these Advent weeks of anticipating and longing to wrap my heart around the mystery and miracle of what is coming again.
Oh, Word, whispered and gone again, show up in the flesh of this mess, over and over again. Knock me over with the blankets. Surround me in the laundry. Surprise me as you sleep in the other room while I fail at doing all the things I think are so pressing. Make your dwelling here, again and again, for as long as it takes for me to notice and sit down with you. God, be with us. You are the One thing we need and never have to ask for. King of Glory, dwell here.