Our family lit the advent candles at church this morning, and in a perfect representation of our life right now, the whole thing was a little messy. Perhaps the most funny thing is that I couldn’t even operate the lighter – the culmination of a week of messiness. A week of frustrating Christmas picture attempts, appointments moving around, arguments, broken devices, and someone advising in all seriousness that my cat probably needs relaxation therapy for litter box anxiety.
I have several bad habits that were out in full force this week, but I’ll focus on two here. One is skimming emails while I’m sitting at stop lights. Two is saying yes to things before I fully have or process all the details.
Will you and the girls light the advent candle this Sunday? Yes! Later I get the follow up email and find that love is the theme for this week. Wait, what? LOVE?! I can’t stand up and talk about love. I didn’t know this was about love. This is the absolute worst time for me to talk about love. I go back to the original email, looking for my “out” while mentally preparing my response: I’m so very sorry, but I didn’t know this was about love. And then I fully read the last line of the email that I skimmed the first time: the theme is love this week.
And as I started to process that I am going to have to actually go through with this advent lighting, I laughed out loud at the silliness of it all. What the heck am I going to say about love? I suck at love. I can’t even choose a faithful mate! While I wouldn’t ever say it to my girls and I’d rather not admit it out loud in church, I’ve also spent much of the last year thinking that not all people are deserving of forgiveness and love. Anyone that makes deliberate selfish choices that hurt others, especially children, just has no idea what love is – and does not ever deserve love or forgiveness or happiness. I know what the bible says about forgiveness and love, and I can even quote those scriptures. But the truth is I still believe with absolute conviction that some people cannot and should not ever experience it. It’s part of my messiness, I guess.
What the heck could I possibly say about love? I had nothing. I was completely devoid of ideas. So I said to my girls: What do you think love is?
My seven year old gave me a one word answer: worship. Worship didn’t really make sense to me, but she wasn’t interested in expanding on her answer so I decided to try again a day later. Audrey, what is love? Worship, she said. So I googled worship plus love and found Psalm 100. It’s only five verses, a packed act of worship that ends with the reminder that His love is eternal. And I realized that what Psalm 100 teaches us is that worship is the way to get love to invade every area of your life.
My 13 year old stood up today and said this: God’s love is different. You may not love him, you may sin, you may be mad at him, but he doesn’t care. He will love you no matter what…God will love you through the hard times and he will be there for you every step of the way.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: my children are smarter than me. I learn from them all the time. And I am absolutely certain I could learn from them even more if I paid more attention.
Advent is the arrival of a notable person, thing or event. In Latin – Mr. Martin from 1980s Bayside Junior High, I have not forgotten you! – adventus means arrival, but also develop or set in or arise.
All things happen for a reason, right? Perhaps the reason I was asked to focus on love is because it’s time to steer my thoughts on love away from what it is not and on what it is. Perhaps the reason I was asked to focus on love is because the season of arrival is about new birth. Perhaps the reason I was asked to focus on love is simply because God has a really great sense of humor. Perhaps the reason I was asked to focus on love is because I needed to hear my daughters’ thoughts on love, and let those thoughts develop and set in and then arise in me.