Advent Reflection: The Bread of Tears
You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful.
The other night, as I tucked my youngest son in, I couldn’t help noticing how completely he filled up my arms. I felt the stabbing awareness of the dwindling of time and I held him tighter. He nestled in close, and I felt him melt into me as he slowly succumbed to sleep. My arms to him are a sanctuary, a shelter of love. As I cradled him to me in the dark, I tried desperately to remember how it must feel to be held in such a manner.
Try as I might, I could not muster a single memory. Too many years have gone by since I have sought such a sanctuary. Nevertheless, I found myself longing for my mother. I felt an ache inside of me for tender arms to hold me tight. Does it seem odd for a grown woman to yearn to be held like a child?
The holiday season always awakens in me a need to be nurtured. During this time that we await the birth of our Savior, my heart is a door wide open, waiting to usher in the love his presence brings. But as I stand at the door, beckoning others to come in and feast on the joy of the season, the ones I love most remain absent. There are empty places left at the table of my heart.
Our expectant hearts feel the resonation of loss all the more during this time of waiting. The fullness of the days can make the stillness of absence ring in our ears. The season is bittersweet for some. Hearts are cognizant of empty places: loved ones departed, emotional estrangement, abandoned dreams, disappointments, and fears. Absence creates a presence that we carry with us as we rush to and fro during Advent. And we ask ourselves, how can a season of such joy also spark this kindred sorrow?
We are told that out of loss comes growth, that suffering builds strength. The scripture says He feeds us with the bread of tears. Hard as this is to understand, this means there is nourishment in the difficult place of sorrow.
Do I dare accept my grief as an invitation to draw nearer to God?
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Who or what are you missing this holiday season? Spend some time in prayer talking to the Lord about these feelings of loss.
Read 2 Corinthians 1:3. Do you feel his arms around you? Let the God of all comfort wrap you in his arms and pour his love over you.
PRAYER: God, it seems so strange to confess to you my feelings of grief and loss, here in the midst of the season so many equate with words like “jolly” and “happy” and “merry.” But it’s true. My heart aches with emptiness and my back is bent from sobbing. Is it true? Are you here? Even in this vacancy? I offer you my sorrow, Lord, and I invite you in. Amen.
P.S. from Mark: Laura Bogges has an M.A. in clinical psychology and works in medical rehabilitation. She is the book editor at The High Calling and blogs at lauraboggess.com. Watch for her new book Playdates with God: Because All the World is a Wonderland, in the spring of 2014.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.