Let Us Be in the Darkness: On Advent

Everything is dark, and in the darkness there is cold. If anyone is near you, you can’t see them. At the edge of the dark there is not a wall or a visible horizon; there is no door you can discern that might open and let you out or even pour light in, and if there were, you do not know where you might face to watch it, what direction you might go in to approach it and not go further from it, deeper into the thick, obscuring darkness. This is a very real experience in seasons of life, sometimes very long and apparently endless seasons. And it’s OK to experience it, to be in that darkness, to feel the breath of despair, to not know. Gød knows that it’s OK. At least, the Church believes this, or, at least, we indicate that we do by building into our peculiar way of marking time, by building into our own particular calendar, a season dedicated to acknowledging the presence of darkness in our lives and the perennial difficulty of hope. It is Advent. Continue reading

On Acceptance: Setting a Face to Powerlessness

Autumn is a difficult time for me emotionally, mostly in that I have a lot of those things—what do you call them, emotions—which is something I’m still not entirely used to, and they take complex shades that resist easy categorization, the way a leaf is not just “orange” or “red” or even “brown” and never turns alone. This year, I have fresh anniversaries to contend with whenever I see a calendar, and the sensory-rich season threatens to evoke them with detritus-scented breezes and each crunched and rustled leaf. It is a time of feeling and loss, which is none of it bad, except that it threatens too to become a time of fear and anxiety, because I do not want to confront the past as past, loss as loss, pain as good. And so autumn is a season of acceptance. Continue reading

Why I Am a Christian: Reflections on a Conversation

“I just can’t get over it,” my friend didn’t mind speaking plainly. “I just can’t help but feel you’re better than that—I mean, you’re so smart.” He was referring to my attachment to Jesus. He didn’t seem to care about offending me, which was lucky in that I wasn’t in the least and was just as glad for the candor. Whether it’s that I’m sufficiently secure in my convictions or that I’m just used to the idea of being a curiosity, like an antiquity which does not show its age and so somehow seems like it passed through time, an out-of-place relic, I don’t object to the incredulity. Though I do struggle to respond to it. I enjoy as much as anyone being an anomaly that troubles a mind, but to make something of it . . . How does one make an account to him who has relegated one as unaccountable from the first? All of my years among evangelicals have meant to prepare me for this, yet I find myself always improvising, always off-script and often at odds with myself. Continue reading

Of Love and Umber: Or, Why I Hate Autumn

I don’t know when I began hating the autumn. Possibly when the cool October air would cut too thinly in my childhood asthmatic lungs during evening soccer practices; possibly when the impossible mix of chilly afternoons and a low, hot sun came with the stress of meeting new classmates and impressing new teachers. My distaste for the season took on new dimensions in adulthood, though, with bitter memories and sometimes-burdensome sadness. It’d become an axiom to me that autumn is terrible; it approaches, and I recoil inwardly and brace myself emotionally until winter, when I can feel dead inside (kidding, mostly). Continue reading

Back into Bondage: Why Freedom Is Hard

At a 12-step meeting I attend the discussion on the table one night was freedom. My fellow recovering addicts had many beautiful things to say about the kind of freedom that they’ve encountered since beginning to break from their addictions, several coming to new realizations even as they spoke about the kind of transformed experience of life they subtly now enjoy—new ways they experience their family, their environment, fragile passing moments of beauty they’d been blind to. (Indeed, this kind of process revelation is some of the wonderful magic of recovery groups.) I had a different take that evening. Continue reading