This year, Advent isn’t going as I had hoped, not even close. I had promised myself that we wouldn’t overdo anything—baking, decorating, planning, shopping. I wanted the liturgical season to be experienced with joyful and eager hope, rather than the frenzied flurry of pre-Christmas planning that tends to occupy the weeks preceding Christmas Day.
Despite the fact that my family has been praying more, giving more alms, making more sacrifices, and generally not succumbing to the secular bustle of activity, my Advent has been anything but peaceful and contemplative. In fact, it’s been the opposite.
Shortly before the first week of Advent, our dog contracted a mysterious fungus on her ears, which has never happened in the nine years we’ve had her. So days and nights are spent applying topical ointment to her ears, administering oral medication, giving special medicated baths, and frequent veterinary check-ups. So goes the season of peace.
In addition, I discovered I was pregnant with our third child (hooray!) shortly before Advent began. This is a beautiful, incredible gift that our family has celebrated together, but…it’s accompanied by increased visits to the doctor and regular trips to the phlebotomist to get my blood drawn. So goes time for quiet contemplation.
As a result, I’ve been struggling with insomnia these last few weeks. One such night, I awoke at 2 a.m. as if it were time to make breakfast and start the day afresh. Instead, I tossed and turned a bit, prayed an entire Rosary and Divine Mercy chaplet, then tossed and turned some more. Irritated, I finally asked God, “What more do you want from me?”
His reply: “Let go of your expectations.”
A few days later, the same thing occurred. I flailed about in our bed, got up a few times, prayed quite a bit, then just stared at the ceiling in bewilderment, wide awake. “God, what are you asking of me?”
His reply was again, simply: “Let go of your expectations.”
I’ve pondered this here and there—when I can get to pondering in between caring for a sick dog, practicing punctuality at various doctor’s offices, and breaking up quarrels between my preschooler and kindergartner. It seems God’s message is one we could all spare to practice: the art of surrender.
You see, Advent is certainly a time in which we wait with expectant faith. We are waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises in our lives. We’re waiting for His second coming and when we will see Him upon our own death. That is what hope invites us to do each Advent—enter into a place of active, rather than passive, waiting. We wait eagerly, breathlessly. We are vigilant.
But God is telling us all, as He told me twice already, to stop placing our own expectations on what we await. That is to say, in order to experience Advent as God would have us live it, we must let go of what we think Advent should be—good intentions and all. My intentions were certainly lofty—pondering with Mary, curling up in solitude and reading reflections on Advent from the saints, attending daily Mass. But they weren’t what God had in store for me this Advent, which is why my interior peace has been disturbed.
Do you find yourself lacking that peace this season? Know that you are in good company, at least by yours truly. Perhaps you might find solace, as I have, in knowing that God is asking us to acquiesce to what He has planned for us this Advent. Sometimes—oftentimes—it’s not what we had in mind, but He molds and shapes us in virtue when we simply offer ourselves to Him, as we are, messy and chaotic and imperfect and all. Letting go of our expectations means handing ourselves over to God.
Text Copyright 2016 Jeannie Ewing, all rights reserved.