The poet Nayyirah Waheed has broken me many times. Her work has, over the course of a few years, served as a meditation many mornings.
Like, this one:
stay soft. it looks beautiful on you. (from her book, Salt.)
One of the things I love about the rhythm of the church year is that it keeps me soft. Nimble. Pliable.
When we get too stuck in our ways, too embedded in our walled-off routines, we become rigid. So much of religion has become rigid in the hands of hard people who have obeyed dogmas not like one takes opportunities, but like one might follow a written recipe that is so complex no chef has mastered it.
Rigidity is brittle. A rigid faith breaks in time.
Advent is, like I say above, an opportunity to practice plasticity in the faith. With so much mystery sewn into the fabric of these short-sunned days, we are encouraged to dream a bit, to wonder and let our hearts wander (perhaps that’s where the old carol got its title?) and become soft again.
To melt, if you will, like you do when you pick up a newborn.
I remember one time taking my newborn son to visit our oldest parishioner. My son, only a few months old, was strapped to my chest in our carrier. The old woman, in her 90’s, asked if she could touch him. I bent myself over as she reached out her hand, and I guided her fingers to his little head (as her eyesight was failing).
I marveled at how both the oldest person I knew, and the youngest, felt the same in my hands: tender skin, soft skin, pliable skin.
It was a moment; eternity reaching out to touch at both ends.
She died not long after that visit…
That encounter made my heart pliable. Soft. It was beautiful.
Like the aged Elizabeth holding her son, perhaps, a story told in these middle days.
What is keeping you soft in these middle days, Beloved?
While you ponder that, throw on “Blood Oranges in the Snow” by Over the Rhine. It’s a song about memories, about expectation, about holding babies, and about staying soft in these cold, icy December days.