Kristen Gregory reminds us in her reflection on “Advent and Barrenness” that there is joy amidst our grief:
I’m reading Jayber Crow, a novel by Wendell Berry; I read and enjoyed it five years ago. The peaceful cadence of his writing is good reading in winter, I think. A line stuck out to me this time–one I hadn’t even noted in my previous read:
“This grief had something in it of generosity, some nearness to joy. In a strange way it added to me what I had lost. I saw that, for me, this country would always be populated with presences and absences, presences of absences, the living and the dead. The world as it is would always be a reminder of the world that was, and of the world that is to come.”
Reading it this time, immediately I reflected upon my own personal loss. I’ve not experienced true barrenness, but I have felt something akin to it: I have buried my firstborn child. I have known grief beyond explanation; wanting to die so I didn’t have to feel another minute of it; the shame of hating God for taking away what I thought was my deserved right–to be a mother; and so many more feelings that I will never be able to put into words, things that I couldn’t even explain to my confessor when I went for private confession and absolution. But things God knows.
And then I read the quote again. In the three years since Vivian’s death, God has given me enough peace to see the meaning of this beyond myself. Or maybe I can only understand it because of this suffering He has allowed. In grief there is joy…I’ve no idea how. I have no advice or sweet words on how to live through loss or grief. But somehow there is a joy in grief.
I think that is why I love the Advent season. I feel at home in the waiting. The sadness over our present losses to sin, death, and the devil; and yet our proclamation that more is to come. Our hope isn’t in the lives we live now or the children that we have lost or never had, but in His real promise: release from darkness, forgiveness, healing comfort, His death for you, and life eternal.
Vivian, among other things, is my reminder of the world that is to come. Each year I hold more joy in my heart than grief (could it be the healing effect of other children God has given us–some who have lived and some who have not?); but Advent especially reminds me that I have not expected too much from my God–I have expected far less than He has promised.