Like most humans, I have a love-hate relationship with the holidays. I absolutely adore Advent. It’s my favorite liturgical season. I love the first snowfalls here in Wisconsin. I love the twinkly lights. I love giving gifts. I love seeing spending days with my parents, siblings, and nephews all under one roof. I love the smell of cinnamon and pine candles. I love Christmas music. I love that my extended family fits over 60 of us under one roof for Christmas. I love the holiday season.
But I also dread it. I dread shoveling and driving in the snow before it’s properly plowed and salted. I dislike how busy stores get. I dread a new Church year because it’s a reminder that it’s almost another year and that I’m almost another year older. Most of all, I strongly dislike the fact that I’m still single, and the romantic music, lights, and atmosphere of Christmas just reminds me of it.
The engagements and birth announcements have already started. Most of the single girls I started with at work are now engaged, married, and/or pregnant. I am really struggling with feeling left behind. It’s not the fact that I’m single; it’s the feeling that God has forgotten – or far worse – abandoned me.
As I struggle with that deep doubt of feeling forgotten and abandoned, the blog post I keep coming back to is A Season of Singleness. It’s never my most frequently liked or read, probably because it’s the length of a small novella, but I love it. I wrote it when I was 25. I was fighting some really strong doubts, and I love how despite those doubts, I wrote with such faith and hope. So, why then is the first thought that pops into my almost 29-year-old mind, so when’s it my turn, God?
When I ask that question with all the feeble faith and hope I have to offer, Jesus does not answer with words but rather with a distinct memory: the day my friend Emily told me she was pregnant.
Emily was my first real friend in Milwaukee. We met over coffee because it was her job as the youth and young adult minister of a parish, but we quickly became friends, as soon as she realized I wasn’t creepy or weird (her words, not mine). As we began sharing our hearts with each other over coffee dates, I began to see how similar our hearts aches though our circumstances were different. I shared my heartache of singleness while she shared hers of infertility. Both of us had prayed all the prayers. Both of us had leaned into our longing to find the Lord. Both of us were at the end of our ropes, longing more than anything to be seen and loved where we were. I remember writing her a card of encouragement during Advent that quoted Fulton Sheen in Life of Christ: “never is there any humiliation without a hint of glory.” Her husband later told me that she was battling some of her darkest doubts about her hope to be a mother and how much that card meant to her.
Indeed, Sheen’s words rang true. Several months later, I happened to come early to our monthly young adult gathering that she ran and I assist with. It was only her and her husband there, starting to set up. Emily and I must have been on the same wavelength that day because our outfits matched perfectly: white shirt, jeans, brown boots. After we laughed and hugged, Emily had a twinkle in her eyes as she bounced and said, “I’m so glad you’re early because I have something to tell you!”
“What!?” I said with equal excitement.
I screamed with absolute and utter joy, hugging both her and her husband, asking excited questions for at least 10 minutes.
Thinking of that beautiful, joyous moment brings my heart such peace. As Fulton said, “never is there any humiliation without a hint of glory.” My glory is just not here yet, but God has given me an Elizabeth to remind me of His glory to come.
I was reading through Luke Ch. 1, one of my favorite books in all of the Bible, and I was struck by the story of the Visitation. When Mary asked the angel how she is to conceive a child, the angel answers,
“The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.”
– Luke 1: 35-38, emphasis added
When Mary asked for assurance, God’s messenger did not point out His glory in her own circumstances but in her loved one’s joy. I was stuck on this passage for days. And each day I prayed on it, I saw more and more clearly how God’s glory was revealing itself in my loved one’s lives, from Emily’s pregnancy to my co-worker’s transformation as she grew in love for her now spouse to a friend’s newly calm demeanor since getting engaged to another friend finding a wonderful boyfriend as soon as she decided to let go of a crush to many, many other circumstances. God does not always reveal His glory in our lives alone. He reveals them in other’s lives as well, as a sign of hope.
How have I forgotten all the Elizabeths in my life? Where am I looking for Jesus but ignoring how He has worked in someone else? What in my life is an Elizabeth to someone else?
Jesus, I am so blind. Open my eyes to Your glory in this holiday season. Help me to trust in your goodness and glory. Help me to behold all the Elizabeths You have blessed me with this holiday season that I may approach Christmas with joy and joy alone. Amen.