making room for the unexpected

i originally wrote this post for christine sine’s advent blog series that she is hosting this season. it was a reflection from the series that we are doing for advent at the refuge called “making room for the unexpected.”   i thought i’d just include it here, too, as part of this month’s synchroblog–the journey of advent.  check out the links at the bottom of this post that i’m aware of so far.  i’ll add more at the end of the day.  enjoy.

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“do not despise the small things” – zechariah 4:10

we’re in the thick of the season of advent.  for some friends, this is the long 6 weeks between thanksgiving & new years where even more of life’s loneliness & pain & reality sinks in.  for others, it is a happy season where there’s a lot of joy & fun.  and a growing group of others, it has become a bit more confusing season where so many things about life & faith re muddled up & maybe not as clear cut as “its Jesus’ birthday, hooray!”

i have come to really appreciate in a deeper way the season of advent & the season of lent in the church calendar.  neither were something i celebrated intentionally until 4 years ago when we started the refuge, but each year it causes me to reflect in a deeper way on my faith & the mysteries of Jesus & what it means to walk this downward rocky path of life-this-side-of-heaven.  this year we are journeying through advent with a series of conversations focused on “making room for the unexpected.”  the season of advent centers around waiting, hoping, anticipating.  of living in the tension of what is and what will be.  of reflecting on new textures of peace, hope, joy, and love.

one of the tensions i seem to live in a lot in my walk of faith is the one that lies between “expecting too much” and “not expecting anything.”  i have this one part of me that wants God to bring simple comfort, ease, pain-free, financial freedom, smoother sailing, and a host of other things that often seem like good ideas because a lot of other people want them too.  and then the other part that is closed off, hardened, protected, and doesn’t really expect God to show up for much at all.  this kind of black and white thinking is so destructive & probably more subtle in a lot of our spiritual repertoires than many may want to admit.

this holiday season i want to make room for the unexpected, to live in the weird scary vulnerable gray area of faith where we don’t expect too much & end up horridly disappointed but we also don’t shut ourselves off from what could be out of fear & resentment.  to do this, i think we may need to possibly:

make room to feel a wider range of emotions.  it’s sometimes so easy to get stuck in “all good” or “all bad” but not let ourselves feel a mix of those & everything in between.  i’ve come to realize that despite what i may have been taught in a lot of my christian experience, we can feel sadness & joy at the same time.  or peace & confusion, fear & courage, and all kinds of other combinations.  i do think opening up our range of emotions can make more room for unexpected life.

simplify. oh there’s so much clutter that needs to be cleared in our day-to-day, and even more this time of year where things get faster, busier, full-er, more complicated.  this year for me, simplify is more than “less expensive gifts and less parties.”  it is about getting back to the basics.  peace, joy, hope, love.  sure, we can make all of these things complicated, but i also think they can be simple, too.  taking deep breaths.  laughing.  noticing beauty.  sitting & talking while not spending a dime.  receiving a word of kindness instead of rejecting it.  little things that help me center on what matters.

listen & look for God interference. we can get so stuck in the patterns of our day to day that we can miss out on small little God interruptions that i call “God interference.”  to me, God interference are moments where God is trying to get our attention in some small or big way to help break the cycle of our busyness, in-grown eyeballs, or being a victim of our circumstances.  in Christ-is-born stories in the gospels, i am reminded of how God interfered & interrupted mary and elizabeth’s lives with baby boys they never expected.   they responded to these huge, scary interruptions with joy and faith.  i wonder what we are doing with the smaller ones in our own lives?

one of my favorite parts of the Jesus story is just how “unexpected” he turned out to be.  they were hoping for a strong-powerful-in-the-world’s-eyes messiah.  instead, they got a humble servant born as a baby to an unlikely couple in a stinky manger.  what the world says Christmas is about is not what Christmas is about.

Jesus came in an unexpected way and seems to still show up in unexpected-contrary-to-the-world ways.  in poverty. in sickness.  in desperation.  in darkness.  in the trenches of people’s real lives.

and so even though advent is a time of expectation, i wonder if we need to make more room for the unexpected.  to be open to small or big slivers of light & love & peace & joy in places we’re not used to seeing them.

yes, this advent i really want to be open to hope in unexpected places.

God-of-the-unexpected, may we make room for your movement in our lives, our relationships,  our neighborhoods, our cities, in the world this advent.

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other bloggers participating so far:

 

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

20 Comments

  • I recently took CPR/ first aid… LOL, the way you look, listen, and feel for breathing and pulse or signs of life reminds me of the way we’re looking for the unexpected here– With great expectation that there is the slightest exchange of that heartbeat…. And when it happens, the biggest party ones heart can throw from the inside! I just love it when that happens, and it’s even better when we have friends we can tell about this and celebrate with!

    Reply
  • Pingback: Walking through Advent Today | The Assembling of the Church
  • Kathy – I love that you included the part about emotions. I’ve begun to practice contemplation this year and have been amazed to realize how I tend to try and ignore any bad/negative emotions. I am learning that doesn’t get rid of them and that the best way to let go of them is to allow myself to experience them and acknowledge them Something called “the welcoming prayer” has helped me with this. Here’s a post I wrote about it http://gracerules.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/prayer-for-the-week-the-welcoming-prayer/

    May all of our hearts be prepared to receive the unexpected revelation of God!

    Reply
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  • Over the past six years or so — and especially since reading The Shack — I have been pondering expectancy … that place in Kairos time where we wait and hope for God to break through time and space into our heart / life / schedule. It has been an interesting journey….

    I know what you mean about the tension between expecting too much and not expecting anything. There has been a dark thread through much of my life that represented the sense that if I didn’t expect anything I would not be disappointed. What a sad way to live, that.

    I am also going through a simplifying process…so needed yet so challenging, eh?

    Be blessed!

    Reply
  • tami – that’s a great metaphor!

    liz – i need to go check out that prayer as soon as i’m done with this. isn’t it interesting how easy it is to not let certain emotions be expressed? i was taught that certain ones were okay and certain ones aren’t so it’s hard for me, too.

    beth – thanks for participating, too. i really enjoyed reading all the posts.

    peggy – yeah, i know that don’t-expect-too-much feeling, that is the one i’m more familiar with than the expecting more. and yes, it’s definitely a sad way to live. peace to you sister, on this wild journey.

    Reply
  • Kathy, your posts always encourage me to keep striving for the narrow path, even though it’s hard! Thank you…I hope our paths will cross one day, before heaven!

    Reply
  • Over the past six years or so — and especially since reading The Shack — I have been pondering expectancy … that place in Kairos time where we wait and hope for God to break through time and space into our heart / life / schedule. It has been an interesting journey…. I know what you mean about the tension between expecting too much and not expecting anything. There has been a dark thread through much of my life that represented the sense that if I didn’t expect anything I would not be disappointed. What a sad way to live, that. I am also going through a simplifying process…so needed yet so challenging, eh? Be blessed!

    Reply
    • jean – thanks for reading, sorry i just got this comment moderated, somehow it ended up in spam folder so i apologize. thanks for taking time to comment. i am so with you, not expecting anything is such a limiting way to live, so much easier and safer though, two things i’m pretty sure aren’t words that are supposed to define faith, ha ha. peace to you in the land of making room for the unexpected.

      Reply

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