“In the thin air of advent, you may not even know how to say it out loud: ‘I thought it would be easier.’ And your God comes near: I will provide the way. You may not even know who to tell: ‘I thought it would be different.’ And your God draws close: I will provide grace for the gaps. You may not even know how to find the words for it: ‘ I thought I would be… more.’ And your God reaches out: I will provide me.
God gives God, That is the gift God always ultimately gives. Because nothing is greater and we have no greater need. God gives God. God give God, and we only need to slow long enough to unwrap the greatest gift with our time: time in His Word, time in His presence, time at His feet…
Advent is the time to see the tree in your thicket and whisper the echoing words of your God: Now I know. Now I know: ‘Since You did not spare Your only Son, how will You not also graciously give us–even me– all things you know I need?’ (Romans 8:32).”
–Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift
Oh, this season of Advent. Oh, this season of my life. It is so funny the way things start to piece together when you slow down enough to really see them. And in a semester that really felt like I never got on the right foot, where I started running full force and really stumbled through the entire thing, the last week or so has been like a shock to my system. I’ve had a lot of slow and quiet time. A lot of walks in Sequoyah, pausing to sit and soak in the sun and the Son, a quiet and a stillness that I used to really know but had become unfamiliar with.
And in this stillness, in the quiet waiting of Advent, I’ve been able to see how my desires and my reality and my ideas about how things should go do not always line up with what God is wanting to do.
I’ve had unreasonably high expectations for what it would be like to be engaged. And who doesn’t, really? I can’t tell you how many people have said to me, “You must be so happy! You have everything you’ve ever wanted!” And it probably appears that way, because we all put forth our best selves on social media, but I hope that I’ve become transparent enough for you all to see that I am a real person and life can be hard and so good all at the same time, and I’m choosing to wrestle through it all instead of putting up the facade that everything is always sunshine and roses. Life is glorious! But the glory comes from being friends will all the pieces of my heart, not just the shiny ones.
And I’m growing to love the man I’m marrying more and more every day. It’s not the same relationship we had this time last year when we were just starting to talk about creating a life together forever (yes we talked about getting married really early on in our relationship–remind me to tell you that story another time because it’s a great one). But it’s so much better. We’re growing and wrestling. We’re just becoming real. And there are a lot of places in our lives right now where it feels like there are huge, gaping gaps and we can’t fill them in no matter how hard we try. Colton is living in Texas, working a ton of hours, going to school, leading a lifegroup, discipling guys, and lots of other amazing but very busy things. I’m living in Knoxville going to school and doing a lot, but at the same time, I’ve been focusing a lot on the next season of my life and feeling hurt that it hasn’t been reciprocated in the way I thought it would be or wanted it to be. For Colt, preparing for the next season of our lives looks like growing with God and being faithful to what He has asked him to do in Texas. He’s building character. And while that should be my preparation too (and has been to some degree), I’ve also been trying to jump the gun and be totally connected and on the same page about everything and totally confident about our entire future, and you see where this is going with all my unrealistic and unmet expectations. I’ve been trying to build the life we will have together before it’s time to really step into that life. I’ve been preparing for the next season and robbing myself of a lot of the joy that comes with the season I’m actually in.
And I think for a long time, Colt and I have both been digging and shoving and demanding that the other person pull their weight to fill in the longings that we have. Colt is longing for support and encouragement to do what he is doing, and I’m longing for connection and attention and validation that this is hard. And it’s easy for us to push back and get angry and defensive and say again, “But no, you just don’t understand, I need… You’re not…” and let it be a wounding thing. But thankfully, a few nights ago Colt was brave enough and loving enough to quietly knock on the door of my heart and say, “Lovey, I really can’t do it all. And I just need grace. Grace to be where I’m at, to be fully present where I am. Grace to not pursue you in the way that you need to be pursued. Grace to fail you where you’re longing for me to come through. Grace for this to be a process.” And while that really sucked to hear at first, it shook me and totally humbled me. But it also freed us up, because now we can move towards one another not our of obligation, but out of love.
See, (pardon my language) entitlement is a bitch that blinds and sinks its claws into our hearts and demands, “No grace, no grace, no grace.” There is no room for other people to fail because their failure becomes less than we deserve, and we deserve it, and so we better get it. Whatever it is. That other person is obligated to do it, because we deserve it and need it. For me, I want to be pursued, and adored, and fought for, and sacrificed for, and a lot of other things that sound really noble and right, but are heavy, heavy burdens for another person to bear when they become demands. Slowly over time, as I’ve become aware of my own neediness (which I have ran from for years and tried to avoid), I’ve placed more and more responsibility on Colton instead of taking these aching places to God. I’ve given Colton little bits of rocks, and now it has become a really heavy load. There have been a lot of times in the past semester that I’ve basically stood and pointed to that gaping hole in me and yelled at Colton, “FILL THIS! This is your job!! Help me feel better! Help me fix this!” And if the truth is that I can’t fix myself, then it has to be true that Colt definitely cannot fix me. It’s just time to let him set down the rocks and breathe.
It’s so painful to realize how you’ve hurt the person you love more than anything, and to realize just how much I’ve been writing a story of heartache and woe instead of weaving a story of grace and redemption. I’ve been pointing my finger, and screaming that it’s hard, instead of being thankful, and believing that God really does have good things for me in this season, that He’s using everything for my good.
In all of this process, I’m learning that God has grace to fill in the gaps, because they were His to fill in the first place. The longings of Advent and the longings in my own heart line up so well because we’re always longing for something, and when we come face to face with that longing, when we befriend it instead of pushing it away, we open up the door for that longing to be satisfied my our Father, a scalding burn rubbed with ointment from our Daddy’s hand. Comfort and joy coming out of the pain. It hurts a lot of the time, but the relief really comes when we run to Him and stop trying to fix it ourselves.
God is so good to give us what we need, especially when it looks a lot different than we thought it would. And sometimes, we have to (with the help of Jesus) take the claws of entitlement out of our own hearts and out of the hearts that we’ve hurt along the way in our attempt to take control and gain what we desire. I’m having to repent. I’m having to confess that I am needy, and I’m having to take that need to Jesus instead of to my people, so that I can love and receive love, no strings attached. When I go to the well of Living Water, I don’t have to drink up other people’s energy, emotions, and gifts. I can receive the love they have the ability to offer and thank God, I can call it good. God can take the little that we have to give and multiply it like the fishes and the loaves. God has the grace to fill in the gaps, to come through in ways that we don’t.
I really don’t have anything figured out, but I’m learning to trust that He’s faithful, that He will not let us fall. He has grace to fill in the gaps.
He has grace for us all.