We’re smack in the middle of Advent and I haven’t written anything since Thanksgiving week. That’s because the day after Thanksgiving we found out that my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Since then, we were able to move him to Colorado to spend this last season of life with us in our home surrounded by kids and dogs and Escobar chaos. We are so grateful. Really, things are pretty sweet around here. He is getting settled in and has care coming in. The Refuge community rocks and we’ve been throwing some good parties and standing alongside each other during this tricky time of year. My big kids are beginning to come home this week for the holiday break. My body’s pretty tired but I am doing what I can to rest and just keep walking through all this one day at a time.
And I’m reminded, yet again, that this life we get to live on earth for such a short time is just one big fat paradox.
Contradicting things existing at the same time, in the same space.
Good and bad.
Broken and whole.
Dark and light.
Messy and beautiful.
Brutal and tender.
Incredibly happy and impossibly sad.
Tired and energized.
I could go on and on about all the different potential paradoxes that exist in my life right now, the life of my friends and family, the life of the world.
Really, the Christmas story is one big fat paradox.
A king, born to an ordinary girl. The prince of peace, arriving into a world of violence and strife. The what-the-hell-is-happening-to-us that Mary and Joseph must have been feeling, along with the “yes, we wills.” The smell with the beauty. The God with the human.
I was not taught the idea of paradox in my Christian faith until it started to unravel and I began studying some of the ideas of Father Richard Rohr over a decade ago. I came from a tradition that would match struggle with “pray harder, if you are struggling you’re not relying on God enough, if things are hard, God is trying to teach you something, unless you fully do this or that or that or this spiritually, you will not be blessed. Get to the happy, the good, the not-mad, the praiseworthy as fast as you can, however you can.” I do not think the people teaching me these things were bad. I just think the culture got stuck in binary thinking and it really did a number on my head and my heart for a long time.
Because it was distanced from the realities of real life.
From the realities of shame, doubt, confusion, fear, loss, grief, inadequacy, anger, and all the other things that real humans feel no matter how “strong” our faith is.
I do not think the big idea of Jesus was that we would be distanced from the realities of real life but rather that we could find hope in the midst of it.
And accepting that real life is one big fat paradox has brought me incredible hope.
It’s so healing.
It’s so freeing.
It’s so honest.
I just got our Christmas pictures back and they made me laugh because the reality is that we took them the day after hearing about my dad. My eyes were horridly puffy despite cold washcloths all day but I was filled with joy to be with all my kids at the same time. Our smiles don’t make us fake. It just makes us human.
And that’s why I love the Christmas story so much.
It’s a story of humanity. Of the mess, the beauty, the raw, the vulnerable, the healing, the confusion, the thinking-we-get-it, the oh-my-God-we-know-nothing-at-all. It’s humanity. It’s divinity. It’s bitter and it’s sweet.
It’s my life.
Not just this Christmas. Not just this year. Not just during a presidency that’s caused so much suffering.
It’s the beauty and hope that God is with us in the middle of the big fat paradox called life.
ps: I didn’t write here these past few weeks, but I do have a post up this week at Sheloves Magazine for Advent called Slow Everything Down.
Also, I wanted to make sure you knew that we are running another session of Walking Wounded: Hope for Those Hurt By Church starting February 5th, 2018. Here are all the details if you or someone you know could use some healing and hope from church and ministry pain.