As she told me she lost her job, I could sense the herculean effort it was to keep herself from completely falling to pieces. Her face crumpled and tears threatened, but she quickly rearranged her features into something that passed for composure.
Her eyes told me the truth. Devastation. Fear. Worry. Shame.
We have all been on one or the other end of these conversations and it's so hard to know what to say. We offer words of support. We offer hugs, wine, chocolate and other physical comforts. We work to prop up. In the end, we sit and help witness the grief. And we work to reassure that everything is going to be ok.
I have been told not to tell people that everything is going to be ok. It's a platitude. It risks coming across at best, out of touch; at worst, insincere.
But here's the thing: I truly believe things will be ok. Maybe not in the way we'd like or we hope, but even in the darkest of moments and experiences, a chink of light finds its way in. We lift up. We move on.
You don't have to look too far to find stories of the relentless power of the human spirit. It exists in all of us. And when we can't find it, we have each other. We have the power of faith and the promise of hope. If we didn't, very few of us would get out of bed in the morning.
Advent is my favorite time of year, which is a bit surprising given that patience is not one of my gifts. Maybe that's part of Advent's magic. I'm uncharacteristically Zen during Advent. For years, I have managed to resist the pace of and pressure of the holiday season brought forth by advertising and media and have worked to focus on the wait.
Waiting can hold the giddiness of anticipation or the weariness of uncertainty. We're all too familiar with the latter these days. News media bring minute-by-minute messages filled with veiled panic and anxiety. We fear the unknown. We seek to control the uncontrollable. Our world gets smaller as we avoid what's painful.
When our world feels smaller, we feel threatened, and we miss the point that we are all part of something greater and bigger. Instead of remembering we're all here to prop each other up, we start turning on each other. We're selfish. We're thoughtless. We accuse. We blame.
But here's the deal: Our lives are bigger than any one experience. Bigger than our fear. Bigger than our shame. Bigger than our mistakes. Bigger than our jobs. Bigger than our bank accounts. Bigger than anyone elected to office.
And during Advent, we're not just waiting for Jesus, we're waiting with Jesus.
Waiting is painful. Waiting is weary. But as author Jen Hatmaker says, nothing can purify our hearts like a wait endured with faithfulness.
Waiting means that sometimes, we need to sit with what may be uncomfortable for a while.
In the meantime, we can work through the discomfort by being kind. We can be generous. We can forgive - both others and ourselves. We can be open to being on the receiving end of generosity.
The answers lie in the stillness that comes from turning inward, rather than lashing out. The next right move awaits in the quiet. We need to be watchful, yes - but still.
I wait. I watch. I hope. And I believe that everything is going to be ok.
O rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing.