Advent 2018: FINAL
I’m calling this one final, but I reserve the right to write more. I began this over the weekend and finished it today, but I gotta be honest with you: I was feeling real discombobulated. No blog I write is ever more than a 1.5 draft, but this is quite raw. I finished it while lying in my bed with my foot up because this morning I broke my toe. I dropped a Le Creuset lid on my pinky toe and lost big time. I’ve been smiling all day when not grimacing. Yesterday I prayed that God would let me go into this week aware of and saying no to my fear of judgment and perfectionism. Now I have a broken toe (phalanx cracked right down the middle with major soft tissue trauma), and I have no choice but to chill and let my various holiday guests be helpful to me. And that’s what they want to do anyway, so it’s all good!
Now, some thoughts on curses, suffering, and hope
In “Joy to the World” we sing good ol’ Isaac Watts words, “He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.” Advent readings often begin in Genesis to orient us with the question, “How did we get in this mess in the first place?” We see creation and then fall, the advent of the curse that necessitates the advent of the Christ.
In my reading last week, I was stymied a bit by the curses coming from the mouth of God.
To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
but he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16, esv.org)
Reading through them, I was struck by the fact that most of my deepest pains, the pain and dissatisfaction to which I respond with sin, could fall under the two elements of the curse directed at Eve. (I proved my theory with a t-chart, and I can highly recommend baldly listing these things. It’s a real gas.) I don’t have the time this year to delve deeply into the cause/effect nature of these curses as they flow naturally out of the arrival of sin. I would love to better understand all of that. Brendan and I had fun musing on it all. One thing is certain, the difficulties created by the cursed nature of creation and myself are not responsible for my sinful responses. I am. Eve managed to go for it before the curses were pronounced, and I’m certainly no better.
Anyway, back to things I understand. The curse is found far, wide, and deep in the world, in me, in every cell. (This, by the way, is why I have to believe that Adam and Jesus were real people: somehow bodies, visceral and based on genetic code, MUST be involved in all this. I know that smacks of crazy talk to lots of you. I can have a conversation about it all pretty well, but written discourse of these things is outside my lane.) Like any grand story, we have: idyllic perfection, curse, and then… promise, legend, prophecy and hopefully fulfillment. Advent reminds us that we are post-curse, post-promise, and post-fulfillm… We are almost there. Remember what Ezra said: the last skirmishes of the war. And in the last skirmishes of the war; devastation is visible everywhere. People look up and think, “What did I just do? What just happened to me? Who is ok? Are we ok? Is it over?”
So during Advent, we can be sad. If I’ve said it once (and I have, but mostly in my forthcoming book that you haven’t read yet), then I’ll say it a hundred times. Belittling our suffering does not glorify or magnify God! It shrinks our estimation of him. The bigger the boiling vat of trouble, the bigger and stronger our hero must be! I have been thinking about this so much lately. I don’t believe that we all have a moral obligation to spout and reveal our troubles to everyone. Boundaries are good. But I think muzzles can be a real problem on someone who isn’t trying to bite. Not only can our sharing of our sadness invite camaraderie and soothe our fellow sufferers, it can propel us toward healing. If you believe in a god that is not big enough for your biggest, grossest, most unsolved, most socially unacceptable problems, I suggest you keep looking.
With this idea (big problems. Big God) in mind, I read this verse that comes right before the curses directed at Eve. These words are from God to Satan:
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:15, esv.org)
It’s the promise buried in a curse, the promise that God will win (and that human bodies and generations will usher the hero in). Satan will hurt the woman’s offspring, the one we understand to be the Messiah and, in Christian tradition, Jesus of Nazareth. And hurt he was. He was wounded for your transgressions, crushed, abused, maligned, beaten, violently executed, and worst of all, separated from the love of God. (But not forever!) “Bruise his heel?” Isn’t that a mild way to encapsulate the sufferings of Christ?
I think of Paul in II Corinthians chapter four calling all his troubles “light and momentary,” though from a human perspective, Paul’s troubles were overwhelming and horrible. Is God (and by proxy Paul) belittling suffering?
No, I don’t think that’s the case at all. The Trinity, as represented by God the Father delivering Satan’s curse in Genesis and the Holy Spirit writing through Paul, has perfect, eternal perspective. From that view, the weight of glory is so astoundingly huge that even the worst suffering becomes equivalent to a bruised heel. What I learn from this is that the prize at the end, the level of rightness and safety I can expect, is GRAND beyond every possible expectation! The End, the fullness of all things, will be so, so good.
We are allowed to mourn. The pain of this place is not lost on God; it’s not “not a big deal.” It’s huge and gross, and He did something about it. I believe it, and may He help me with my unbelief.
“He comes to make his blessings known far as the curse is found.” So cry, be confused, get up when you must, or lie to rest and wait for a minute, and have the wildest dreams you can for what it will be like to be with God as your very best self (one not even Oprah can picture!).