While I was in seminary, my mother was gravely ill and ended her own life. Her death was devastating for me and bewildering for my faith. Her long time struggle with depression and anxiety coupled with a new terminal diagnosis were too much for her to bear. On the one hand, I understood very well how and why she made the choice that she did that last week of November 2000. She wanted to choose her own fate. She was terrified of being a burden on the rest of the family. I really believe that she believed those pills were the best and most loving and thoughtful choice for all of us. On the other hand, I knew of her prayers and mine for her healing, and I was so deeply grief-stricken and angry at God for not answering them. It wasn’t fair. How could it be that a child of God’s could be in such a cold and dark place without relief? I wept for the darkness of my mother’s pain and suffering. And my own soul was chilled and alone.
There was a time in my early grief when I was not able to claim a belief in God. I couldn’t assert any hope in a benevolent force over and above all else. I was unsure what I would do with my useless Master of Divinity degree because it wouldn’t be worth even the paper it was printed on.
But, God found me, and God was wearing a tattered sweatshirt, aprons, and rubber gloves.
My friends had told me to let them know whenever I needed them, as you do when your friend is grieving, so I did.
One night, my grief had taken hold for a good long week, getting off the couch was almost impossible, and the pile of dirty dishes in the sink brought me to tears. I called my friend Hanna, cried about how hard it was to wash the dishes and how useless it all felt. And 30 minutes later she appeared at my door with our mutual friend Anissa, decked out in aprons and gloves and carrying buckets and feather dusters! They cleaned my tiny apartment and shared hugs and laughter and tears with me! They didn’t tell me to get over it or pray harder. They showed up and helped clean off the crusty dishes.
I think of them at Christmastime because they were the very real incarnation of God in my life. They were Love, embodied and empowered. Just like the infant Christ, they showed up, right in the middle of the mess, and offered what they had to give.
I pray that this Advent season has unfolded for you and yours with surprising gifts of hope, peace, joy and most of all, of love. May you witness the great in-breaking of God into the dark and cold places, so much so that it spills over into the rest of the world!
Advent blessings for the journey,
—Brigit Stevens, Associate Conference Minister