Stop Sign

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It will come amidst the noise from the ride, our youngest yelling at the top of his lungs, “Stop sign!” (“top tign!” in 2.5 year old articulation). It is not worry that Mommy is missing it, but instead his pure joy over the sight of it. Bright red with its white border and block letters, when was the last time I cried out in joy at the invitation to STOP?

Amidst the Advent activities at home, the youngest could use a personal stop sign. He mourns each day that he cannot consume the Advent season in one fell swoop – opening every door on the calendar, eating every chocolate piece, lighting every candle, coloring in each day.

“Wait,” I tell him. “You must be patient. Advent is the season of waiting for God’s coming into the world. You cannot rush it.”

“Humph,” he grunts, slumping his shoulders forward and lowering his chin dramatically.

Truth is that I have surely responded the same way over Life’s Advent. For years, Drew and I have been preparing for the end of his residency and all the unknowns that come with it. Here we are six months away from his completion of residency and we continue to wait. The discernment has begun but every aspect of it is in process. Life in Durham for our year of orthopedic fellowship holds more open-ended questions than it does any answers.

There have been moments where we have tried to rush through the rites of passage. We have convinced ourselves that we could maneuver around the waiting and decide something – finding a rental home, renting our own home, finding a school for the oldest – and each time, Life has come and shone a flashlight into our shadowy efforts. The light always reveals that it is still Advent. The light shouts, “Stop Sign!” We slump our shoulders and sulk away.

“Wait,” I tell him. “You must be patient.
Advent is the season of waiting for God’s coming into the world.
You cannot rush it.”

So each morning, my comfort comes at my kitchen table in a quiet house. Here, “Stop Sign!” is whispered from the Holy Parent. Here, the whisper allows me to hear it as the good news that it is. It reminds me that my life as God dreams it to be cannot be achieved by my own efforts, rushed by my anxiety, or uncovered by forcing the process.

Here, I look for the stop signs. As I pause, I find the time to look down to see where I stand, look around to see who walks the road with me, and look up to discern where I go next.

The minutes cannot be rushed.
The days cannot be known before they arrive.
The years are too full of joy and pain to be foretold and held in advance.

When Mary cradled the young baby, she may have dreamed of his future but she could not have grasped the journey to come. She could only attend to the life in front of her – cradle, nurse, soothe, clean, cherish.

“On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Do not fear, O Zion;
do not let your hands grow weak.
The LORD, your God, is in your midst.”
– Zephaniah 3:16-17

I stop and give thanks for the God who is coming even now to those who wait. I remind myself to trust that God is still revealing God’s self and granting just enough wisdom, guidance, and patience for the day ahead.

Finally, I remind myself of the One I follow, who never promises that the Coming of the Holy removes difficulty, struggle, or fears. I trust in the One who allows me to persevere, survive, and even thrive within it, brimming with gratitude, gentleness, and courage.

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