As adults, brooding is our Advent fate

Photo by Sean Witzke on Unsplash

The heart cannot stay home. We might wish that we could corral our hearts, keep them contained within themselves, but we would be imagining something quite different from our own hearts. They were created to wander, to pine and to brood. As long as we live—indeed it is a sign of life—our hearts will yearn for what they do not have.

We understand this, even if we cannot quite accept it. We learned it long ago. The road out of childhood is posted with unanswered desires. Arriving in adulthood, we become accustomed to porting about a secret world of pined for things: what we wish would be different, what isn’t going to happen. The storybook that the soul writes for itself can inflame our imaginations, where the unreal rules.

We understand all this; we bear it, the best we can. The heart is not going to stop wandering and pining. If only it wouldn’t brood! That is the heart’s true bane.

As long as we live—indeed it is a sign of life—our hearts will yearn for what they do not have.

We love someone, though at times, if we’re honest, we wish that we didn’t. Caring for this person comes at such a cost! We can’t think of our loved one without some torment. We wish that he would change his mind. We wish she would change her behavior. We don’t want to be hurt. We don’t want to hurt him. We pray that she stops hurting herself.

We do not know what to do. We engage the loved one, and we make a mess. We come back bloody, and, at best, nothing has altered. Often enough, things get worse.

We decide to keep our distance. Feet can do what the heart cannot. We are left to brood. Should we be doing something? Did we do enough? Are we wrong for staying away?

We can’t think of our loved one without some torment. We wish that he would change his mind. We wish she would change her behavior. We don’t want to be hurt.

In our brooding, we can even question if we truly love this person. Is he or she worthy of our love? But who is deserving of love? And who can talk the heart out of caring? We can say that we do not love this person, that maybe we never did, but the brooding heart tells against us.

What should we do? What is supposed to happen? What does God want? Why does God suffer us to be so bound up with brooding?

This is for God to know. We must watch and wait, as the angels do. We often envy the fanciful life, which we imagine of the angels. We wonder, why didn’t God make us one of those carefree creatures? Yet the New Testament calls them “the watchers.” Angels are those who ever so patiently attend—to our foibles, to God’s will. Would we be so blithe as to envy their vocation?

We say that Christmas is for children. True enough, and we must learn that Advent is our lot as adults. We must watch, and we must wait.

Word comes to Jesus of John. From his prison, the Baptist is asking about his cousin. Try to imagine what went through the mind and heart of Jesus! John is brilliant and holy, brave to the point of impetuous.

A prophet? More than a prophet.
Among those born of women
there has been none greater than John the Baptist.

How can the God of Israel suffer John to be reduced to “a reed swayed by the wind?” What does God want of the Baptist? And what does the Father of all mysteries expect of his only begotten Son? What should Jesus do for John, his beloved cousin?

Our hearts cannot stay home. While they yet beat, they will wander and pine. They will brood. We cannot rip them from our breasts.

The Messiah must watch and wait. Will God ask less of his Son than he does of the angels? Even our Lord must, for a time, accept Advent. His heart cannot help but to brood, yet his faith embraces the promise.

This is the one about whom it is written:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way before you.

Our hearts cannot stay home. While they yet beat, they will wander and pine. They will brood. We cannot rip them from our breasts.

There are so many answers still to find. There is only one question we must ask: Can we allow God’s promise to break into our brooding hearts? If we can, that is more than enough, for now, in this our Advent of watching and waiting.

There has been none greater than John the Baptist;
yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Readings: Isaiah 35: 1-6a, 10 James 5: 7-10 Matthew 11: 2-11

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