In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I’ve felt this sense of overwhelm at all the things. The last 3 days, I’ve had anxiety bubbling up the back of my throat, getting caught in my sinuses while I sniff the tears back into my eyes. As I’ve mentioned before, anxiety is new for me. I know how to manage depression, but feeling panicky about everything is not something I’m accustomed to, so I search my whole self looking for what the problem is. I even asked my husband, “Why am I SO emotional?” which we all know isn’t a question a husband can answer, as his shrugged shoulders confirmed.
As I sat at my desk this morning, with my hands over my chest trying to keep my breath from escaping, I realized the source of my anxiety comes from the fact I am not ready. Not ready in the sense that I have no gifts wrapped and some to still buy, I have no cookies made, I still have a mountain of work to get through before the holiday break and I don’t have enough time in the day to get everything done. I’m also not ready for the year to be over. I don’t have my word for next year, I don’t have any concrete plans in play, I’m not emotionally prepared for all the implications of what our current state means for the year ahead. In one sense, I’m absolutely panicked about everything and in another, I just want it to be over so I can stop worrying about it.
I imagine the heavily pregnant teenage mother of the Savior whose birth we are about to celebrate felt very similarly as she approached the first Christmas. As someone with 3 kids, I can tell you, you never really feel ready to bring a child into the world. And at the same time, by the time you’re at the end of your third trimester you’ll have nurses squeezing all of the pressure points in your ankles if it means it’ll induce labor because you’re just so done and want this part to be over. I can imagine Mary feeling like she was not prepared to physically go through the feat of strength and determination that birth is while also being anxious about what the implications that her son would be the son of God meant for the future, not just of her, but the whole world. But ready or not, she made the trip to Bethlehem, she labored in a barn, birthed Jesus and walked with increasing faith that whatever was unfolding day by day in front of her was going to amount to a good story.
The picture here is called “Mary comforts Eve.” It was drawn by Sister Grace Remington, OCSO, from Sisters of the Mississippi Abbey in Dubuque, Iowa. This picture is the illustration of Christmas for me. It is one woman whose story has been defined by Despair; believing there was no changing what had been done and that things would just be broken always being comforted by another woman who even though there was no way for her to be ready for what was to come, was rooted in the confidence that things were about to change. Victory would be had. Joy would be restored. The Story would be redeemed, and it again would be called very good.
In my space of panic and uncertainty, I am grabbing a hold of Mary’s faith today. Even though I can’t see more than a couple steps ahead of me and I am not ready at all for tomorrow to come, my Hope is anchored in confidence that the trajectory is up, The Story is good, and God is near. May Emmanuel, God with us, be manifest to you and your family in the most tangible way this Christmas and in the coming year.
A truly lovely read! I love the image and your explication of it! Stories are powerful. We read stories of the fantastical, stories of miracles, signs, and wonders, because the truest parts of ourselves need to be reminded that life, itself, is always-already miraculous, that being alive is always-already a supernatural event, and that every day, no matter how inane or unextraordinary, is a thinly veiled invitation into the wonderous and unimaginable marvels of what is and what can be. As G.K. Chesterton says, “Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten”.
I believe in stories because I believe in the power of stories. I believe in our stories because I believe in the immense power of our shared story. But, perhaps even more so, I believe in stories because I believe that our story has not yet ended, that it is neither finished nor close to concluding. I believe in stories because I believe in the unfolding potency of the story that is still to come, because I believe that we still have truth to tell…