Advent is a time where we give a fair amount of thought to expectation: watching and waiting for something we long for to take place (Ted Gossard has a nice piece on this today). And we often consider the ways we have, or don’t have, eyes to see what God is doing in our midst today. When we reflect on the birth of Jesus, we are likely inclined to place ourselves among those who recognized the event for what it was. It is probably more accurate, however, to imagine ourselves among those without a clue that God had broken into history in this most humble, surprising way.
After lunch today we put Mercy down for her afternoon nap. We prefer to nap the kids in separate rooms during the day, so we have been putting her in our bed at my parents’ house. Yesterday we discovered that SHE had discovered a collection of toiletries including hair gel, shaving cream and contact lens solution on a shelf within her reach in the bedroom. These were items left in my parents’ guest room by my sister and brother-in-law who had stayed there a few weeks ago. Mercy had for whatver reason decided that she should take all of these items off the little bookshelf and carefully lay them in the closet. Maybe she felt like if she had to sleep, they needed to take a “night night” as well. Mercy is not allowed out of her bed once she goes down for her nap so when we discovered the hidden toiletries we had to have a talk with her about following directions and staying in the bed
We reminded her of this again today when she was put into her bed and tucked in for her nap. Now there are two things to know about my daughter: First, when my daughter sees something that surprises or intrigues her she will inquisitively exclaim: “WHAT HAPPENED?” And when she does something she knows is wrong, she will look right at me and say with big eyes: “Mommy angry?”
As she lay in our room, I could hear her talking through the monitor in the living room. I did not hear her getting up or playing with anything, so I let her be. She often does an extensive narration of her day thus far before she can wind down to go to sleep, so as I listened to her chatter, I was not alarmed. I did hear her say, repeatedly, “What happened?”, and while thinking it kind of strange I again decided to let her go since I could hear no movement. A few minutes later I heard a litany begin: “Mommy angry?” “Mommy unhappy?” “Daddy angry?” Still, I was not moved to go in and check on her.
More time passed and Doug came back out to the living room. I did not hear him go down the hall or enter her room. I was in the kitchen when suddenly he was standing in the doorway with his hand held oddly behind his back. The look on his face told me that something was up. He slowly reached around from behind his back revealing a giant cloud of shaving cream cupped in his hand. Suddenly “What happened” and “Mommy angry” took on powerful, prophetic proportions.
We can always see, after the fact, the ways we were summoned to see and discern and believe. Whenever Oprah interviews a guest who has had their life changed by some tragedy, she always asks them: Looking back, were there signs that this or that was happening (be it abuse, unfaithfulness in marriages, suicides of children, betrayals by spouses, etc.)? And the guest always acknowledges that yes, there were and that now, on the other side of the event, they can see certain things so clearly. As people are fond of saying, hindsight is 20/20.
The incident today with my little girl reminded me that, even with all the informations, all the necessary clues, I can still find myself completely oblivious to what is going on. I wrote yesterday about Christians in the United States during the time of slavery getting God and truth and salvation so horribly, obscenely wrong. I think I am feeling especially sobered this Advent by considerations of my own ability to wait and watch as one whose heart is called to be heavy-laden with expectation and hope. And I question whether I will have eyes to see the appearances of my Savior.