That’s not fair, she’s my friend so I get to decide. Bella yelled at me from the back seat of the car this morning.
She had just asked me if her and her best friend, JuJu, would be going to kindergarten together next year. Knowing it’s completely impossible that they will be in kindergarten together I had told her I didn’t think they would be, BUT that we could do lots of playdates.
That’s when she yelled.
And the moment those words flew out of her mouth, my eyes welled up with tears. It was in Bella’s innocence of youth, her ability to be so honest and vulnerable, I heard my own ache echo through her words; that in life people come and people go, and it’s a very beautiful thing, and it’s a very hard thing - it only seems fair that we’d get to decide.
Sometimes we get to decide.
But so often, we don’t get to decide.
Life can change in an instant. And there is loss.
The natural law and order the God of the universe seemed to establish is to give and take away – that nothing stays the same forever. In fact, it all seems to change daily, and sometimes that change can come in depths we feel inept to navigate.
Lots of times it seems as if the universe tells us: no sweetie, I’m sorry, you’re not going to have it that way again. It’s gone.
It seems so unfair.
At the beginning of advent I asked myself what the hell Mary must have done on the back of that donkey? It wasn’t a five minute donkey ride like that at the zoo. It was a journey. It was days and nights of nothing but dirt roads, mountain scenery and a whole lot of sitting, right? I’ve never been en route from Nazareth to Bethlehem but I think it was sorta something like that.
Mary does, completely tell God to do his will. To have his way with her. I am the Lord’s servant, she had responded.
But she didn’t get to decide that; you know, to carry the son of God.
And I wonder if any part of her felt a bit like it was unfair.
(then again, she was to carry the savior of the world so maybe she was all like…I AM AWESOME!)
But I just wonder. Did her choice to serve, come with feelings and emotions? I mean, if she was human, it did, right?. Things can’t change, we can’t experience loss (good or bad) without our souls pausing to acknowledge and honor it all.
I never thought about WHY baby Jesus came WHEN he came. Why did he have to come during a census? Why Bethlehem? Why did God call Mary and Joseph out onto a physical path, away from one city and on over to the next.
It’s like God knew.
He knew to create space for Mary to grieve, to give her time and space to process that which had just completely been disrupted in her life.
It’s like he intentionally designed a path for her (and Joseph) to go from what was to what was going to be. I call that, grief. The space and time God gives us to work through the changes and losses of life.
With grief, it seems everything is stripped away. It’s just us, us and a dirt road. That which mattered so much, often doesn’t matter much at all. He calls us out into the wilderness to change us. And when ready, delivers us into our new season. I think that’s what he did on that donkey. He called Mary out into a stripped down space, while delivering her to that which he had planned next for her life.
I bet she cried on that donkey. I bet she sat and wrestled with how she was going to tell everyone that it wasn’t Joseph’s baby, just you know, from the divine?
I wonder if she pondered of days past, where it all made sense.
I wonder if she longed for the comfort of the past unknown vs all the present unknown. A season of grief; an awareness that what was, no longer is.
But you know, that same light, that same God in Mary; the God who ordered her steps and wrote a story specifically for her – that same God is in me and in Bella. And so, I mean, to some extent the same thing he was doing in and through Mary, he’s doing in and through me and in and through Bella. He’s writing us into his story.
I’ve lost this year.
And God gave me lots of time and space to reconcile that which is new with that of the old - a bridge, of sorts, between the two seasons.
Bella is going to go to kindergarten.
And she is going to meet all kinds of new friends.
She is going to learn and grow in ways I’m so excited for her for.
But there will be significant loss – of friends, of normalcy, of routine.
And no, she didn’t’ decide or choose. I decided. I chose for her. She goes to kindergarten. And with the constraints of geographical measures, it’s not going to be with JuJu. Bella’s life is changing and she didn’t get to decide.
And so Bella is going to ride a donkey for a while. She gets to enjoy JuJu every day for the next several months ALL WHILE NOW in full knowledge that it’s going to change.
Ignorance is bliss, we say.
Absolutely, I agree.
But also, the God of the universe never lets us stay ignorant. Eventually, he reveals our story. And as the plot is revealed we become aware of the change. And so, he graciously writes in time on a donkey. To grieve.
Grief is necessary for wholeness. It’s space and time to let go of what we had, in order to prepare and step into the next season with all of our selves.
We’re still in motion.
Life hasn’t stopped. It’s just slowed down enough to honor the change.
This advent, Mary and that donkey reveals to me the way God honors us. Grief used to feel like a punishment to me. I’m learning to see it as God’s deep love for us. It’s his way of saying: I get it. I see you. I just took away so much. And so here, here is some space for us to sit and honor that loss.
As we enter into the week of Christmas, maybe you’ve had huge change and loss this year, and I wanted to take a moment and say the same: I get it. I see you. Life just took away so much. And so here, here is some space for us to sit and honor that loss.
A quote I heard the other day spoke: Joy is not the absence of conflict; rather, the presence of God.
In your darkest and deepest grief and loss, may there be so much joy.
May you have but eyes to see the Savior of the World sitting on the back of the donkey, journeying right alongside you.