I love reading the Prophets. They are my favorite non-Jesus part of the Bible. They remind me that holding on, just making a way to stay invested, maintain cohesion, stay upright and breathing, to not give up…they remind me that holding on is an important skill to understand and master. Think I’m blowing smoke? Ask any potty-training household how important the idea of holding on is, how fine that timing is, and you’ll probably get at least twenty minutes of good, real-life talk and probably a roll of paper towels.
I remember Advent two years ago. I was packing my whole house up. I was breaking up with a job. I was moving to a little town I’d never,ever intended to live in, and was kind of scared about. I was doing a job I’d never done before. There was so much to do, and so much to be done. And just like all transitions, there was a huge flurry of activity on the front end and a huge flurry of activity on the back end, but only so much that could be done and processed in the middle. And on days when it seemed like I couldn’t pack on more box or say one more goodbye or try to figure out one more logistic, I would remember that sometimes, all you can do is hold on. And that holding on is respectable. When the Children of Israel were making their escape from Pharoah’s armies, God asked them to be still, to hang on a minute, to not just freak out and panic or lose your nuts, or do something ill-thought-out and potentially really stupid, just be still a second…just hold on.
It is hard to sit and hold on when I’m uncomfortable. It’s really hard to know when to sit with something that’s hard, because that’s the right thing to do, or when I’m just being lazy. It’s hard to know sometimes if I’m hanging on, or dragging behind. And again, that makes me think about the Prophets, asking us to look at ourselves truthfully and soberly, telling us that despite what we see, despite how unspooled we’ve become, if we can just find it within ourselves to hang on, to stop spinning, to be still…if we can just hang on, we will see an undeniable work of God’s own hands.
And so it is, I think, with faith and fortitude. Sometimes I think huge chunks of my faith have been borne out of just gritting my teeth and holding on, just holding on, and believing I wasn’t just dangling over a hole…Because sometimes, I had trouble believing I wasn’t just dangling over a hole…sometimes it felt just like that. But even when I didn’t believe, and couldn’t really claim to have that faith, I still just kept hanging on, just trying to be still and hoping that faith would find it’s way back to me. And I knew from reading the Prophets and from reading the Gospels that when faith returns to a person, it’s never the same way twice, and it never looks how one might expect it to look. So when I hear Isaiah and John the Baptist taking about the Kingdom and the King, I hear a story that sounds like faith and fortitude, of the already-and-the-not-yet, of how after holding on for centuries, faith was coming to life in a way that no one could have imagined.
I hope that as you continue your journey through Advent 2013, you are able to find moments where faith and fortitude intersect with your life.