Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Exiled Hearts

Throughout the years of my faith and even the years before I had much of anything resembling faith, Christ has most often found me in sorrow. This may be because grief is the emotion I naturally tend to experience most keenly and most often, and it may be because that is where my need for Him is felt deepest.

In the past, this has not held as true for Christmas. I love this season. I love that it’s about rescue. I love that it holds a new kind of hope. But this year, burned out and weary, I’ve had trouble connecting myself to messages of joy and comfort when it’s so far from the realities that feel more present at the moment.

Recently, I got into what I call a shouting match with God. These happen often in my walk with Him, and though some might call it irreverent, if the often-emo poetry of the Psalms tells me anything, it’s that He can take it. I owned up to my deep sense of loneliness and isolation, the feeling that I’m barred from the things I hoped for, and held it out in trembling hands. And I dared to ask Him a question: “How can I believe You’re here in this?”

And He answered: I was exiled too once.

“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.”
Isaiah 53:3 - 4

The cultural bent, inside and outside of the church, is to reserve Christmas for the joyful ones, the happy ones, the ones who get to go home to whole families. But maybe that’s a side effect rather than what it is

Christmas is for the lonely ones-- He chose to be lonely with us. Christmas is for the wandering ones-- He wandered with us. Christmas is for the exiled hearts facing long, aching roads before they reach anything close to a place that feels like home.

Because as much as I feel vulnerable being so far from the familiar and comforting in these recent months, I can’t even grasp the vulnerability of being God wrapped in the skin of a newborn baby. And I imagine that when He opened His dark newborn eyes-- eyes that had only ever been bathed in glorious light, now plunged into the thick darkness of an ancient night-- His crying was more than an infant’s noise. He was learning the deeply human ache of being terribly far from home.

Though I shrink from dismissing this with an easy answer (to let the Christ child sit with us in our loneliness bears a sacredness as weighty as the joy of knowing that He was also our Redeemer), I also find courage in remembering that His exile, like my own, was not purposeless. He chose it for the sake of love. Every trembling human breath through chapped human lips, every moment in the dark, was a part of making Love complete-- a part of perfecting love in us. 

“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”
Isaiah 53:5

He became lonely with us so that we would never have to be truly alone again.

Merry Christmas to my fellow wanderers-- He goes with us.


Azto Caligal said...

I really appreciate this article' Mary. And I can relate. My children are 300 some distance away because
of divorce & an epic fail. My exhusband has full custody of them and quite bitter. As a result, I don't get to see them. This breaks my heart.

Sarah Gray said...

I think some of us are just meant to be sort of melancholy part time, sort of sad, part time, and feeling isolated, part time. You put it into words so eloquently, Mary. This has been a sad time for me and the ache slowly leaves as the holiday passes.

Sarah Gray said...

I, too, have felt a sort of melancholy or sad feeling throughout this season. As the season slowly leaves us, the loneliness and painful sadness eases somewhat. Maybe this is a portent of a better new year.

Rae said...

A different perspective than what I'm used to, and I think I needed that. Lovely post.