by Jane Tawel
December 2, 2019
This I read today from Jorg Zink—”Take the path that leads inward through the days of Advent. Set aside for yourself, if it is possible, time to breathe in; time to stop feeling that you’re on the run or under stress. Allow something to happen inside you. Turn your thoughts and hopes to the things that count.. . . “We humans contribute to the world’s gloom, like dark shadows on a dark landscape.…But now this man from Nazareth comes to us and invites us to mirror God’s image, and shows us how. He says: you too can become light, as God is light. What is all around you is not hell, but rather a world waiting to be filled with hope and faith. This world is your home as surely as the God who created and wrought it is love. You may not believe it, but you can love this world. It is a place of God. It has a purpose. Its beauty is not a delusion. You can lead a meaningful life in it.”
From Doors to the Feast, by Jorg Zink
I am beginning this Season of Advent, by seeking better practices of listening. And to switch up St. Paul’s words, but I hope, not his intent, one way I hope to celebrate the onslaught of God’s Son living with us in this world, is to “set my mind on” the present Presence amongst us on earth, and not a wishful wannabe in a heavenly future. As Jorg Zink writes, I hope to “turn my hopes and thoughts toward the things that count”.
I have spent a lifetime communicating as a writer, teacher, parent, spouse, daughter, co-worker, and friend. But Advent is a good time to remember a man who was born as a baby and who excelled not only in communicating truth and love but in listening. To listen not only to other human beings, but to listen to the very Earth herself seems to me a life-practice I have too often missed-out on, and I have been sadly suspectful that “merely” listening is not something valuable, active, and meaningful.
Listening seems so passive, and of course, for some people it is. It took me years to realize that the reason I talk so much and have so much outer-moving energy is because I think (and fear) that if I am not verbally responding, physically engaging, facially and bodily moving, and passionately involved with others, then I am not giving. In other words, I am so afraid of taking and so anxious to connect in meaningful ways with any humans within reach, that I overdo the communicating bit. It took me years to understand why I am so depleted after work or social events or even just a car ride or dinner with a family member. It is because I was never really allowed to just be by myself or be quiet around others. I am the “cheerleader”, “stage-manager” who always just wanted to be what she was at heart, a nerdy introvert. So when I am with other people, I am caught-up in my own need to “give” of myself. This is not altruistic, I realize; it is rather more like a hidden, undiagnosed phobia or syndrome. And to make matters worse, as an empath, listening to others, for me, means feeling everything the other person is feeling, taking it in, and not having anywhere to put it but back out there to “solve” or “help”, or stored away smoldering and moldering inside my own mind and heart.
People who are like I am, end up with running tracks in their brains that often spill out their mouths. We pour out so much, that eventually there is a backwash. Eventually, our communications often morph and change from giving, caring, wannabehelpful and useful bodies of relational communication to unlivable, unsustainable towers of babble. Inside, we end up running along the lines that add tracks of worry to our faces, and fill us with secret fears and criticisms; and these can easily derail, leading off to side-tracks and runaway ramps of angst, anger, and hopelessness.
Advent is a time of permissions. It is a time when lowly, stinky, homeless people were given permission to hobnob with kingly Magi. It is a time when it was permitted to not just believe in angels, but to sing with them. Advent gives us permission to come into the light, and stand, kneel, or dance before God. Advent gives us permission to love the world as The Creator loves it. It gives us license to believe there was once a God-man who loved the world enough to be born into it, even though He already had a different and better home; a God-man who had so much hope for and faith in the world and other human beings, that He thought he had enough love to make a difference; and so God gave Jesus permission to live in the world with all of its darkness, and to care for all of its brokenness, and even to die for its future. Now, The Christ waits for our permission to open the door, to let him turn on the lights, and to listen to him teach us how to be like him.
What do you need to give yourself permission to do, or not do, this Advent Season? As you await, anticipate, engage with, and hope for what will born in and with you, what can you do now to prepare for what will give you more purpose and more joy in the journey? You may find the answer surprising, as I have. You may find that in not doing something you think you must do, there will be more meaning to not just this super-imposed upon us season, but more meaning to your life. For some it may mean, not buying, not going, not giving (just because it’s a Tuesday), not resisting standing out, or not staying silent but speaking up. For me, this Advent will begin with instructing my heart to not being afraid to wholly and holy be a listener. For me, I am giving myself permission to seek a heart of silent anticipation and to practice truly listening. I am giddy with anticipation of what I might hear. I am also a little afraid of what people might think or how I might feel (or not feel). Maybe you feel the same about finally speaking up or speaking out? Maybe you are afraid to put yourself out there? But we don’t need to fear each other or our own trials and errors in changing for the better, because as Jorg Zink says, this world is our home. We are safe here. We are together in this. We make the world have its meaning, and it in turn, the world we make gives meaning to our lives.
Did you know that because sound and light are both waves, they can conceivably be converted into the other? May my words become loving light and may your light be converted into the sounds of your truth. May the Light which we celebrate at Advent, give us all the sounds, both spoken and silent, sounding out and holding close, truth, hope, faith, joy, and love. And may those of us who need permission to shout, shout “Hosanna!”. And those of us who need permission to listen, may we be “still, and know that He is God”.
Jesus came to give us permission to be specifically who we were meant to be, just as he was and is. God is among us, granting us permission to live in a Truth that is available and unassailable because it is purely and divinely Love. Christ in us, is our permission to live, and to live fully and meaningfully.
Today, how will you share who you are giving yourself permission to be?
Illustrations by Julie Vivas, “The Nativity”