As advent begins I am reminded just how much the idea of God’s coming and our need to wait for it can change our imagination. So often we assume a rather limited spectrum of what is and isn’t possible. For example, we have a relationship in certain unhealthy reciprocal habits and from within the cycle it looks like a dead end. Often times a pause, an opening up of new perspectives, inputs, and distance from the raw emotions of a situation will give us the ability to see alternatives we didn’t in the midst of it. Waiting in many instances increases possibilities. In some situations, like those relationships that are troubled, what it brings is the understanding necessary for forgiveness, the courage to be honest, or the space to take stock personally. What amazes me still (and you would think you would get use to it) is how time, friendly ears, prayer, and perspective can hope to a darkened horizon.
This isn’t just true for our relationships with friends or family but on a larger scale too. I was reminded of this by a friend commenting on one of the lectionary passages this week from Isaiah where he gives this vision, “they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” The brilliant 16-year old exegete was struck by the connection of education (no learning of war) and the practice (no sword lifting) and said, “this could be seen as idealistic babble and give a bunch of calls to the “reasonableness” of war training but if you just step back from it and see where having a big military with a big price tag has got us you gotta think something is wrong. Maybe we should be learning something different and then we will be able to see it….I don’t know….whatever.”
I think this student was right. So many of our most pressing issues, from the micro to the macro, could look different if we thought more was possible. Perhaps this season of advent, as we anticipate the coming of God, we will find our imaginations opened to possibilities beyond our ‘normal’ with all of its unquestioned broken, selfish, cyclical, and unjust assumptions.