The Advent Challenge
By Dustin Davis of Los Angeles, CA, USA
…and above all things, clothe yourselves with the bonds of charity, as with a mantle, which is a bond of perfectness and peace; pray always, that you may not faint until I come; behold, and lo, I will come quickly, and receive you unto myself. Amen. —Doctrine and Covenants 85:38c
I recently visited a friend nearing the end of her pregnancy. I hadn’t seen her since she became pregnant. It was incredible to see her so close to giving birth. One of my many questions was about how the experience had been for her. In a moment of honesty, she told me it hadn’t been all that enjoyable. She was generally uncomfortable, couldn’t sleep well, and just wanted to get to the next part. She said hearing stories of other women who loved being pregnant didn’t help. But there she was with nothing to do but continue to wait and prepare to receive her new child.
I have a deep appreciation and respect for my friend’s honesty and humility. I wish I had the same courage and candor on my own spiritual journey. The honest examination reminded me of how God uses all the stuff of our lives for transformation if we’re able to humbly accept the reality of it.
The spiritual journey, like pregnancy, is easily romanticized. We like to fantasize about what it could be like to watch the sunrise every morning, to spend hours in silence, or to visit a far-off monastery or ashram. While lost in our daydreaming we tend to ignore the reality of life.
This is especially dangerous when it comes to the bigger things in life like love, self-acceptance, self-image, and death. When our carefully crafted plans fall apart, as they invariably do, we don’t know what to do or where to turn. When we are out of work, we realize we can’t find the comfort we seek in our books. When a sudden death shakes our foundation, we wonder where God is or if God was ever there.
There will never be a perfect moment to pray. That is the romanticized spiritual life. If I wait until I have time, when I have perfect health, until my life is all good, until I have it all figured out, I will never pray or seek God. (On those rare occasions when everything is going well and I do have a free moment, the challenge becomes one of praise and gratitude to God instead of filling the moment with distractions or self-delusion.) Ironically, every moment is the perfect moment to pray!
The challenge of Advent is to seek God in the busyness, in the suffering, and in the ordinary. If we resist the urge to romanticize them, these realities remind us that we are not in control. These realities humble us and teach us that our constant Advent task is to prepare to receive the gift that is now and always freely given.
Advent Prayer Phrase
Anticipation deepens within.
Invitation to Spiritual Practice
Spend a few moments dwelling in God’s presence. Pay attention to where your heart feels drawn into prayer. What words, images, or themes in this story lead you to reflect on your own faith journey? What is God’s invitation to you this day?