Hopping and Hoping through Advent
I don’t know how it happened. I went to bed on Saturday night with a stiff knee and woke up on Sunday morning unable to walk.
It looked like someone turned my knee into a volleyball! It didn’t help that I was all alone either, as Jan didn’t travel with me on a post-Thanksgiving trip to visit my mother.
All I could do was hop around on one leg; quite gingerly I might add. Every countertop and chair became instant crutches as I moved around the Airbnb. My fervent preoccupation became how I could return home to Mission Viejo so Jan could take care of me. Even with her own health issues, which are not minor, she is an extraordinary and compassionate nurse.
Thus, I was reminded again that I am only flesh and blood, subject to excruciating pain. This seems to be a pattern for me. Just as I start to believe my exercise and healthy diet are making me invincible, something happens to remind me that I am clearly not, like my knee turning into a volleyball.
What am I Supposed to Learn?
At such times, I ask myself what God is trying to teach me—beyond the stark realization that I am not young anymore, or that health itself is a gift from God that I should never take for granted. In this case, I am reminded how much I need others, especially during times of crisis.
While waiting in the exam room for the orthopedic PA, I texted Jan that my pain was significantly lower than it was the night before. She replied snarkily (knowing how hard it is for me to stay in one place), “Only because I made you stay off it. Don’t be fooled!”
But I do get fooled. I make believe that I don’t need others, until I realize that I cannot survive without them.
Carrying the Pain of Others
Life can turn so quickly. A wildfire can burn down your house. A stroke can rob you of your ability to speak. A car accident can leave you paralyzed. And a pandemic can kill millions of people and cripple economies in a single year.
So, when I reflect on the significance of my own suffering, which for me is normally short lived and infrequent, it sensitizes me to those who carry pain all the time, and for the most part go unnoticed by the rest of us.
Comforted and Comforting
In this season when I’m hopping around in hope, I’m mindful of a faithful wife who helps me keep my knee elevated when it is swollen beyond recognition. Simultaneously, I’m mindful of the vast others who bring comfort—“in-the-flesh” type of comfort—to those who suffer.
“Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God…Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken’” (Isaiah 40 1, 3-5).
At the culmination of Advent, a child will be born who one day will be called “Messiah,” the “Christ,” by his disciples. To a people born of sin, who did not care about the “rough places” of others, this one makes “uneven ground level and the rough places a plain” for all people who are in pain and who face seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Of course, I am a little more sensitive to “uneven surfaces” at the moment than I usually am, but that makes Isaiah’s prophecy even more poignant for me. If there were ever a time when we needed a word of comfort, a word of hope, that insurmountable challenges will be overcome by our collective way of following Christ, this is it.
And so I give thanks for a God who sends his Son into the world to enter the pain of others, not only to enter it, but to carry it at a deep level; moreover, to change the circumstances or brokenness that caused it in the first place.
I also give thanks for you, members of my spiritual family who embody this movement of God, to enter the suffering of others so that no one will suffer unaccompanied or the world without hope of redemption.
May the God of all comfort bring hope and peace to you this Advent, as the glory of the Lord continues to be revealed through you,