It’s felt like anguish and fear and inadequacy and complacency and lukewarmness and the absoluteness that things in my sphere of incarnational living are hopeless.
I’ve shrugged my shoulders when my boy across the street reminded me that he didn’t need another mama or another daddy or anything else we had.
I’ve walked away when the neighbor down the street decided that five years of relationship amounted to nothing if our teenage kids couldn’t be best friends who had weekly sleepovers.
I’ve ignored the knock at the front door because I knew the request and I knew I wasn’t feeling generous and I knew the person wasn’t doing their part, whatever I deemed their part was.
I’ve dodged the once a year, Facebook message from my neighbor across the tracks asking for help with rent and a ride to the store and an afternoon’s worth of a bended ear.
I’ve wanted to tell the mama across the street to give me the baby that was born eleven weeks early because she wouldn’t stay off her feet or quit smoking or sleeping with her baby’s daddy after her water began to leak. I’ve wanted to chastise her for leaving her baby in the NICU because she’d rather chain smoke on the front porch or get her hair done or yell at the two babies under her roof. I’ve tied together strings of reprehensible words in my mind and I’ve uttered them to Thad and I’ve sat on my porch and condemned the sinner on her porch forgetting that in Christ’s eyes we are the same.
I’ve neglected visiting our house guest in the jail because I’ve thought she deserved to be there where she could get clean and sober and broken. And I’ve neglected to write her because I couldn’t come up with anything hopeful or helpful.
I’ve even considered stealing my neighbor’s dog because she’s starving and been so mistreated that she cowers at the sight of men.
I’ve dreamed of giving my kids’ bus driver a piece of my mind because her rules are discriminatory and subject to change at the drop of a hat and I’m done with being lumped into the pile of marginalized, uneducated, poor parents who can’t do better because they don’t know any better. Because I’m better than them, dangit.
I’ve driven all the way to Wilson to shop for groceries and to get a latte and to pick up toilet paper because I’ve not wanted to see my neighbors or my local community or fellow believers in the line at Target.
I’ve not finished a book or had one coffee date or sought out wise counsel from a mentor because I’ve felt the inability to process any more words or discuss the condition of my heart or hear any more truth that feels hollow in the depths of my context.
I’ve given up my drives around the neighborhood and my walks down the street and I’ve turned inward at the bus stop because my eyes cannot lie about what is hidden in my heart.
And what is hidden in my heart is the depravity of a woman worn out by the depravity of a world looking for salvation in all the wrong places.
The world’s darkness casts shadows, long and wide, over all that I can see and hear and feel and smell. Poverty has a distinct smell and I cannot burn enough pine scented candles to mask its odor. Real needs of real people climb the virtual walls of my mind and in the middle of Advent, this season of waiting, I cannot replace their needs with an image of a helpless babe in swaddling cloths who is coming to turn tables over and seek justice for the oppressed and pay the penalty for sins He’ll never commit. I cannot fathom a new kingdom where the rich are actually poor and the foolish are wise and the least are counted great and the broken become whole.
I cannot reconcile my current context with the coming King because I cannot grasp the expansiveness of Grace that would leave heaven to come and save a wretch like me.
That’s the crack in the facade, the hole in the Gospel I’m fumbling to live out. The inability to deal compassionately with my neighbors is a direct indication that I have stopped preaching the Gospel to myself…maybe because in my deepest, darkest moments of depravity I’ve failed to really believe it.
Because haven’t we all found ourselves in a state of disbelief?
As I mark the days of Advent, my soul fights for joy and for hope and for the ability to set my eyes on the Savior who will enter this volatile world as a vulnerable, human baby and rescue me from myself.
I trace the line of Christ all the way back through the ages, through families riddled with depravity no worse than my own. I find myself standing in solidarity with the broken and the wanderers and the liars and the cheats and the selfish. I crouch in the shadows with the doubters and the skeptics and the ones waiting for a Messiah who looks more like a king than a baby.
But the simple, glorious truth is that salvation will come by way of God in a manger.
And he will look like me in all my humanity, yet still be God in all His glory.
Love incarnate that He might know me in the depths of my depravity and be my way out of it.
This is the Gospel.
Jesus is coming to stand with me in the dark until I can see the Light of the world come down.
And out of the stump of my heart, the Word become flesh will remake me.
But for now, I wait, expectantly for what my soul knows to be true.