Dumpster Fire

My friends and I are in love with the phrase “dumpster fire” these days. We use it as a catch all to describe everything from burning dinner to busting the budget.

My Thanksgiving was a dumpster fire this year. 

My in-laws came from out of town and before you could say, “Pumpkin Pie,” sharp political conversation ensued. My husband came down with a migraine and disappeared for basically the rest of Thanksgiving. Two teens cracked their iPhone screens on the same day. The dog ate one of the pies. We rallied the troops to see a movie, but I drove us all to the wrong theater. One teen made a poor decision and got grounded. There were secret tears, eye rolls, and exasperated sighs. I laid awake for several hours one night with a discouraged and fearful heart.

Because on top of that holiday stress, our sweet dog probably has cancer, our Nav account is in the red, and I was recently diagnosed with arthritis. 

And the refugee crisis. And global warming. And gun violence. 

I’ve never felt so low coming into the season of Advent. I’m combating the physical darkness of the shortening days with lights and candles, but the uncertainty and insecurity in my life is a darkness in itself.

I came across this quote in one of my Advent devotionals:

“We have to live in exquisite, terrible humility before reality. The Gospel doesn’t promise us complete clarity or rational certitude. We only need enough clarity to know how to live without certitude. We really are saved by faith.”

My application that evening was to turn off all the lights after dinner. I flipped all the switches and unplugged all the cheerful Christmas lights. I sat in the quiet darkness, in humility before reality. It was a bittersweet time of counting blessings and difficulties, and allowing myself to feel the despair and sadness. 

Later, I lit a tapered candle because my reality does include light; the light of Christ. Not the light of renewed effort, or even of a future reward or peace, but Jesus – with me in the present tense. That small glow of light represented the clarity that was enough to bear the uncertainty for one more day. 

Are you facing uncertainty or insecurity? Are there unresolved conflicts, difficult relationships, or stressful circumstances in your life? It’s tempting to push them aside to get through Christmas preparations and parties. Isn’t it better to put on a happy face and make sure the kids have a fun Christmas break? I think for years that was my mindset. 

This year, I just can’t. But even if you can, even if there isn’t much on your plate – why not practice the discipline of Advent with me; sitting in humility before reality and asking Him to come and to bring light.

From O Come, O Come Emmanuel:

“O come, bright Daystar, come and cheer

our spirits by your advent here;

dispel the long night’s lingering gloom

and pierce the shadows of the tomb…”

And, O Holy Night:

“Long lay the world in sin and error pining

Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices…”

Join me in embodying this sentiment by sitting in the darkness for a moment and then lighting a candle, or speaking a prayer – whatever reminds you of the presence of Christ in all places and all circumstances. Let’s await Him together during these weeks of Advent instead of rushing to the finish line of opened presents and family gatherings. 

“For yonder breaks a new glorious morn…”

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