What a strange day to leave behind a home.
My father is driving as I’m writing this. The sky is dark with clouds, and it’s raining, cold and dreary. It occurs to me that this is probably the last time I will make this drive through all these trees, past all these corn fields and pasture.
It only took me ten minutes, a box, and a bag to pack up all my things from my dad’s house before he moves out in January. It’s all sitting in the trunk now, so the only things with me are the Christmas presents from my father and a drawing of mine I didn’t want to bend.
And right now, I am sitting here, staring at this drawing, and all these thoughts are swirling in my head about the girl in the picture, and leaving home, and the moon, and fourteen-year-old me, and Christmas Eve, and Advent, and Mary.
I find it a strange piece of providence that the girl’s face is hidden, like so much of Mary and her life. Like so much of myself. We can’t really know fully.
What is the girl feeling, as she stares up at the night sky? I don’t know. Hope? Sadness? Wonder? Delight? Anticipation? What is she waiting for? Maybe she’s praying. Or crying, or smiling. Or both. Standing on the edge of something. Unsure. Maybe she’s afraid to get in the boat this time, paralyzed by the fear that it will break under her weight. Maybe she’s simply reveling in the light of the stars. Whatever it is–sometimes I think I’ll always be that lonely little girl, staring up at the moon.
I wonder if maybe Mary felt the same way this girl feels. I wonder if Mary ever felt like I did when I drew this at fourteen, or right now at almost 22.
I wonder if I am like her, at all.
Certainly, she had to grow up more quickly than I ever did. She was only fourteen when the angel flew down into her world, so young, so small, and gave her news that radically shifted everything in her universe. All of a sudden she was a part of something so much larger than she could imagine. To be told that she would bear the Son of God into the world must have been too much, too overwhelming, too bright and holy and unspeakable and terrible and beautiful for words to fully capture.
Then those days of anticipation, leading up to that strange and holy night a little over 2,000 years ago. It is these days I’m curious about–she must have felt the same way I do during this time leading up to Jesus’ birth–the first Advent. I wonder if she ever felt alone or lonely during that time before the first Christmas Eve. Or misunderstood. Or tired. I wonder if she ever doubted God, or worried about how her body was changing, if she would ever look pretty again after pregnancy had stretched her breasts and belly and her hips. I wonder if she felt insecure about her ability to be a mother to this baby. She was a child herself, after all, as she made that long trek to the stable in Bethlehem under the stars.
A girl leaving her home behind, journeying toward–what? A stable. The moon. The next stop sign.
I wonder what she knew, really knew, at that point. Certainly the angel had told her the facts, and she knew Scripture, but knowing about Him was not knowing Him, experiencing Him, nursing Him, holding Him when He cried, washing His tiny body, feeling His tiny hand clasped around her finger. Watching Him grow. Watching Him perform miracles. And eventually, watching others mock Him, denounce Him. Nail His hands and feet to a cross. She would watch Him die out of love for the world, witness Him take on the holy and infinite wrath of God, our deserved punishment, and then–joy of joys!–she would see Him rise again, defeating death and sin, enabling the world to be forgiven. Even her. And she would see Him return to His Father.
Did she, in her waiting, comprehend the sorrow, the joy in store for her?
Neither do I yet understand the weight of glory that God has called me specifically to bear. And so, I wait.
And this waiting period is the place called Advent. A liminal space between when Jesus left us and when He will return to us and redeem us. Our already-but-not-yet hope. It is a place filled with longing, with empty spaces, with mourning, with expectation, with loneliness, but also with joy. It is wine mingling with water. It is moonlight–a reflection, a mere shadow of the light to come in the morning. For Mary, for the nameless girl, for me.
This is Advent–this strange and winding road, the in-between of here and home. It is here, on this road, that I will wait for Him for all my days. That I will wait for the morning to break.
But until that morning comes, I will take heart, and sing of the loveliness of the moon.