Photo Credit: Sandy Normand
Before the first snow fell in Saskatoon this year, before the purple candles were unpacked, a small insurrection erupted in our home. Before the Remembrance Day service, our beloved little people had been enjoying the day off school, sleeping in, taking their time getting dressed, being slow and lazy. Honestly, their parents were enjoying these things too.
We soaked in the glory ten minutes too long. Getting ready to leave late was a perfect storm for an uprising. Shoes flying, voices rising, tempers erupting. Carrying flailing kids upstairs and holding their doors closed while they lost it. Hearing myself lose it, too: “I don’t care if you don’t want to go! People died so we could live in peace!” I would have been laughing at myself if I hadn’t been so seriously invested in my righteous anger that they were the reason we were late. Mommy needs a time-out.
As these first few days of Advent have arrived and are washing over me, I am weary of ordinary time. This particular ordinary fall has included a return to work from maternity leave, school and homework, swimming lessons and family visits, job loss for my partner, job searching and transition for me, not enough sleep and the constant awareness of waiting in the unknown.
The insurrection was one of many, with too little patience, too much hurrying, and not enough acceptance. But that particular morning was the seed of my Advent call, a call for more peace. If only it came right away, just because I wanted it…
In the early part of Luke’s gospel, Zechariah describes what God will do with the first Christmas: “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79). Jesus will come, a light in the darkness, to guide my way. And Advent is my opportunity to long for him, to prepare the way, to open myself enough to be willing to follow Him.
I am, often enough, the source of the insurrection. My kids are modelling my own rebellion. I want another way. Forget making a highway in the desert. I’ll take the red-eye, thanks.
In a line-up for lunch at workshop for work, I was standing behind a friend and made a joke about a snow-plow, when His light showed up in my darkness. What if Advent is my snow plow? I want everything to be neat and tidy and perfect. Now. But what if I need to plow through all my expectations and let my failing and my longing lay in a messy path at the sides? What if the road toward the Prince of Peace is slow and painful, a confrontation with my own impatience, caused not by someone else driving a plow, but by my climbing into one?
And just when I thought I had a plan to use Advent to implement new parenting and discipline strategies, to systematically force peace into our family by sheer will, God whispered into the chaos of the first Sunday of Advent: mercy. What if mercy is the plow? What if I need to tread lightly, move gently, and give myself and my people some grace?
The inclination to rebellion, habit of rushing, and clashes of power are unlikely to be eliminated by Christmas, at least in my heart and home. More possibly, though, and maybe more hopefully, I could begin by plowing the way for peace with mercy. I can turn my hands to feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. I can walk the way of forgiveness and bear wrongs patiently. When the mounds of laundry line the bedroom floors and the kids need another band aid, I can let my plans and expectations go, piling up like snow behind the plow. The unwanted baggage does not have to be gone to lay it aside for something greater.
I do not need to be rested up in order to begin. Nothing needs to be fixed or final. The preparations for Christmas do not need to be extravagant or efficient. But the questions and objections to peace are heavy. Do I want peace more than I want perfection? Would I rather arrive early or peacefully? Will I sacrifice mercy for the illusion of having it all together?
Maybe I can even walk with mercy into the inevitable insurrections in my world. Mercy is the way of wrapping the wounds of a broken world. It is recognizing that my kids are tired and giving them space to rest. Mercy hears sadness in the sharp words of a colleague and responds with gentleness instead of criticism. Mercy says, “I’m sorry” and “Can we start over again?” It is setting down my to-do lists and being content to leave some of the things undone. Mercy is begging for forgiveness and allowing my sin and failing to be piled up along the side of the road instead of obsessing over the hope that it will disappear.
The Prince of Peace is coming to me, if I will plow through imperfection with mercy to meet Him precisely in it. Just maybe the messy wake behind mercy will be an invitation for others to join too.