“What seems a hindrance becomes a way; what seems an obstacle becomes a door, what seems a misfit becomes a cornerstone.” – Henri J. M. Nouwen
The Advent season is upon us. It’s marked with waiting, watching, and building anticipation for the arrival of Christ. These past few weeks we’ve experienced our share of waiting. My husband had an accident that resulted in a broken thumb and finger and the loss of three others. As the shock wears off and medical bills pour in with Christmas cards, we wait and watch for healing, emotional and physical. Many have graciously asked, ‘How is he?’ This is a difficult question to answer and varies from day to day, as one might expect. At first, it was hard to envision days without pain, layers of bandages, and follow-up appointments, much less a functional hand again. The waiting and watching have called for patience. It makes sense to me now that patience comes from the word “patior” which means to suffer. In Latin, patientia means “the quality of suffering or enduring; submission”. We often tell ourselves and our children ‘be patient’, can you imagine saying instead, ‘just suffer a bit!’?
I was reminded of our Fourth-grade literature Heidi, by Joanna Spyri. In this episode Heidi responds to her sorrowful, grieving friend, the doctor who feels God himself sent his trouble:
Heidi sat pondering for a while; she was sure in her heart that God could help out of every trouble. She thought over her own experiences and then found her answer.“ Then you must wait,” she said, “and keep on saying to yourself: God certainly knows of some happiness for us which He is going to bring out of the trouble, only we must have patience and not run away. And then all at once, something happens and we see clearly ourselves that God has had some good thought in His mind all along; but because we cannot see things beforehand, and only know how dreadfully miserable we are, we think it is always going to be so.”
While the scars of my husband’s particular injury will always be so, the misery of it will give birth to a new way of living. Of course, it’s hard to see this at the moment. So what in the meantime? How does one ‘increase the quality of suffering, endure, and submit’?
We learn from Heidi’s childlike faith. The good thought God has in His mind is to draw us to Himself. We notice His presence with us in the suffering. In a culture that likes things large, impressive, and flashy, God chooses the small, often overlooked, the quiet whisper versus a booming voice, to declare His presence and show us the way. All at once something did happen, ‘let us not run away’ but have eyes to see and ears to hear the one who submitted, endured, and suffered for all. Emmanuel, God with us. Life then becomes a perpetual watchfulness, which is ultimately the door to a better way to live.
Life is advent.