I was so moved and challenged by Lucy Mill’s guest post on my site a couple of years ago, that I asked her whether I could use an updated version this year. She kindly obliged…
I often forget about Advent until I’m in it. More accurately, I don’t realise how fast the time has gone and suddenly it’s mid December and – oh. I feel irritated; as if I’ve missed out on something. Is it worth it, now? Or have I missed the Advent bus?
This year I did at least notice when December began, which has helped. I had already made a note, in fact, that I needed to prepare myself for Advent. I know that sounds odd, as Advent is itself a preparation.
Yet I forget to make time and space for that preparing to take place.
I forget a lot of things.
2013 and 2014 were quite significant for me. We’d moved to a new area and a new church (my husband is a Baptist minister). I made new friends as well as trying to nurture the old. The editing role I already had shifted to one with more responsibility and oversight. And it appeared I had created a book. In April 2014, it was published.
How odd! How extraordinary! I was a first-timer, poking it to check if it was real. I’m also a little shy of it now. After years of pouring myself into it, I feel a bit self-conscious. Reading it makes me squirm a little, like watching myself on screen.
I’m tempted to leave it on the shelf, to draw a line under it.
But that would make a mockery of what it is about. Because the book is a confession: of my own forgetfulness. My tendency towards distraction, every day and any day. And it’s also a reflection on the importance of remembering God in our daily lives – what this means.
I can’t draw a line under it; it’s part of my continuing journey and it’s as relevant to me now as it was when I started it.
Because my condition is chronic. I neglect my faith. I don’t open my Bible. Then I feel guilty about how long it’s been since I opened it. So I don’t think about it, and the pages remain unread. I pray occasionally rather than continually. I reach a point where I feel empty, and I am blind enough to wonder why.
I’ve forgotten who I am. I’ve forgotten who I am because I’ve ceased remembering who God is. As a Christian, my identity is in Christ. Yet instead of focusing on Him, my eyes drift. When I squint towards my faith, I do so through a fog of my own distractedness. I don’t allow times for rest and reflection – I fill them up with mediocre diversions. I’m a little scared to face myself and admit my forgetfulness. So I embrace the forgetfulness even more.
It takes discipline to pull myself back, and often it’s the tug of the Holy Spirit – not my own strength. God, in all patience, woos me into returning. I come understanding: whom have I but you? To whom else would I go?
The seasons of the Church are, in many ways, tools for remembering. Advent, focusing on the coming Christ, can be a great antidote for forgetfulness, if we dare to take more than a cursory sip of it. The incarnate Christ came as a fragile baby into a dark world; the resurrected Christ is still present with us now by the power of the Spirit. And the glorified Christ will come again.
Today, in spite of my busyness, in spite of the distractions, I choose to take a breath. I allow myself to remember. A mere moment, perhaps, but it births more moments as I form a habit of pausing.
In these final days of Advent, take a moment to pause. Breathe. Allow yourself to take a handful of stillness. It will help you get perspective on the rest of it – the hurly-burly, the ever-changing, the tugging cords of life.
Reflect on the light that came into the darkness, the light that cannot be put out. And ask for that light to shine on all your distractedness and disrepair.
You haven’t missed the bus. It’s not too late to start a new kind of remembering. Every morning is another chance to draw close to our God of mercy and grace. Seek the One who knows every part of you – the shallow and the deep – and who loves you.
I need to hear this, to reflect on it this Advent season.
Lucy Mills is author of Forgetful Heart: remembering God in a distracted world, which was published in 2014. Her second book, Undivided Heart: Finding Meaning and Motivation in Christ, is coming in 2017. Both books are published by Darton, Longman and Todd (www.dltbooks.com).
Lucy writes articles, prayers, poems and worship resources. She’s also been on the editorial team of magnet since 2011 and now works in a freelance capacity as their editorial coordinator, overseeing the team and editorial process.
Lucy’s own website is www.lucy-mills.com