Advent is the beginning of the end – the end of all we so long to see end and all we long to see begin – Jon Bloom
You are working in our waiting – Aaron Keyes
Lots of life is minding the middle place – Ashley Abercrombie
If you heard irrational screaming within five miles of our home about a month ago, let me reassure you:
No one died.
We were just watching the end of Season 3 of Anne with an E.
It took us all by surprise, and yet, of course – not at all. The books are nearly a hundred years old now, and its clear from the beginning of both book and Netflix series which particular story arc would be somehow resolved.
Here’s a hint: Anne’s last name does not stay Shirley.
The screaming was from our oldest. She’s always had a soft spot for boys – fictional or real – who themselves have soft spots for feisty, smart girls that the rest of the world doesn’t understand.
But while she was happy with the ending of Anne with an E, she was less-than-thrilled the next day to find out it was the
The show claimed they’d written all they could with the material, and of course, all three Meredith girls vehemently debated that point,
because there are eight books, people.
And yes, at least three of those books are about the next generation;
book seven is mostly about the adventures of the many Blythe children
(oops, spoilers! – except you’ve had about a hundred years advance notice with which to figure that out)
spend the majority of their time
with the family next door.
Wait for it…
Go check it out.
Hence our personal attachment to the storyline.
In those eight books, it takes Gilbert over ten years and two proposals to win Anne over as an intellectual rival, friend, co-teacher, and eventual wife,
so to resolve that relational storyline by the time Anne turned sixteen in Anne with an E,
the series had to depart from the book’s canon fairly dramatically.
And while some might object that Lucy Maud Montgomery dragged the tension on for too long,
there are obvious internal reasons for the delay,
mostly around the psychological trauma of Anne’s orphan and foster-kid experience,
as well as the gentle benefits of waiting;
over the course of many pages we meet many an entertaining character
So, while Anne with an E was an entertaining ride – particularly this last season – the takeaway for our story-writing teenager was a deep and passionate resolve that
They resolved that too soon, Mom.
A few months ago I was purging my closet and found a journal from the spring of 1998.
At the time, angsty melodramatic teenage WB shows were allllll the rage, and not only with me and my handful of super-emotional teenage girl friends:
Even some of the guys I played (correction: more like hung-out-with-while-they-played) Nintendo 64’s 007 watched Dawson’s Creek.
Can you even?
But as I glanced through that journal, the thing that stood out to me was that
tension didn’t bother me so much back then.
Somehow the gap between the things-I-wished-for-but-didn’t-see
as an 18 year old.
It might have been because I was living it more acutely.
The things I wanted resolved in my life back then –
a home –
weren’t going to resolve any time soon,
Because they couldn’t.
And while us adults are quick to point out the gaps in teenage brain development, logic,
and ability to be rational,
(because those gaps are very, very real)
sometimes we forget
the particular wisdom they also possess,
because they are living between two worlds
and we are more firmly encamped in just one.
I’m seeing that through a microscope now,
as the plaque of my heart gets dug up
by each of the hills and valleys my kids walk through.
As my oldest said last week,
I know everyone keeps saying that I’m only fourteen, but this is the oldest I’ve ever been and you’re telling me I’m only half way to beginning to understand the world?
The waiting is exhausting.
The waiting is exhausting –
But it makes us who we are.
Several years ago when life went sideways,
we sought out advice from someone who’s known us since we first started dating.
And for awhile he didn’t say anything in response to our painful story.
Well, one thing is clear. You guys are resolvers.
– What does that even mean? I laughed in response.
– Well, in conflict, there are avoiders and there are resolvers. You guys are resolvers. You are driven to fix it. Get it over with. Resolve.
There were another few moments of silence, and then:
That’s a really great trait to have.
– It doesn’t feel like it, I told him.
I remember telling Noelle what he’d said when we got home, and in her other-worldly sense of wisdom, she just paused, lifted an eyebrow, and said,
You’re a story-teller, Mom. You don’t like leaving things unresolved.
Even in the stories you’re writing, you hate ratcheting up the tension on your characters. You know it will hurt them. I find that hard too.
– So what do I do? I asked, unsure of where she was going.
Well, it’s like we’re living at
the one and a half hour mark
of a movie,
and its taking more
than a few scenes to resolve,
and that’s scary.
She was right, of course.
– It will resolve one day, Mom. You know that, don’t you?
Either the situation will improve
or you won’t care about it as much,
or … both.
A few years later, the situation hasn’t improved so much,
But there is a peace that pervades our home
that I didn’t see coming.
It’s like we’ve learned how to be okay in the tension.
Last week I caught up with someone who has known me since, well, forever.
It’s awkwardly awesome to have those kinds of people in our lives.
The benefit is that they’ve known you forever
and not gone anywhere.
The downside is that they’ve known you forever,
so there’s not much you can hide.
And I’m not sure if you can have a relationship like that without a struggle or two.
But, as the conversation went to a deeper place than usual, and I was invited in to something difficult and painful,
I was surprised at the fierceness of protection I felt for this person.
It was a compassion that wouldn’t have been possible without pain.
Some of the pain was on their side, and some on mine.
Some of it came long ago, and some more recently.
All of it kept doing its work:
edging off the parts of our
that were getting in the way
of who we are supposed to be.
And it made me realize that,
while we long for the right circumstances –
the Disney endings –
let’s face it;
in the face of right circumstances,
most of us become the worst version of ourselves.
The uncomfortable reality
is that the thing we eagerly avoid,
frantically try to resolve,
(that’s my old go-to)
might actually be our best friend:
I saw this recently in a sensitive situation with someone who really matters to me.
The circumstances were awkward and the stakes were high.
And the thing about tension is,
if it gets to be too much,
we can snap.
For a few days, I contemplated the risk involved.
Fight, flight, or freeze?
In the end, I saw there was another option:
Embracing the tension.
Look, I get it.
Being known is scary.
There’s always the possibility that revealing yourself as you really are will end in rejection.
And it’s one thing to be rejected for a projection of yourself, or just a layer of who you are.
You can always tell yourself,
if they really knew me…
But when they really do know you and still walk away, that leaves a mark that’s hard to shake.
I should know.
But something about this high stakes scenario caused me to consider that there might also be
risks to retreating.
In fact, the losses of retreat might be more confusing and harder to recover from than outright rejection,
because you don’t really know
what would have happened
had you just been brave.
On the flip side of that scary moment, I can tell you that embracing the tension is sometimes very, very worth it.
It’s what I told my girls yesterday as I shared some of the things I wrote about in that 1998 journal
and empathized with them
that when we’re in it,
tension seems unbearable.
But it’s often exactly what we need.
Sometimes its working behind the scenes, crafting something that’s not ready to be revealed just yet.
Something that we aren’t ready to see just yet.
A friend of mine summarized this best a little over two years ago.
She had begged for resolution in something that really should be resolved.
And yet she had to wait.
The wait was excruciating.
But just when we thought it wouldn’t turn,
something happened that no one saw coming.
And it was so much better than getting that premature resolution she so longed for.
I see this sometimes at work.
First time moms are often especially eager to be over with the waiting of pregnancy
that they sometimes try and bring on labour itself
a little earlier than their due date
so the angst of growing more uncomfortable is resolved.
The problem is, this often happens when their babies are right on the line of maturity.
Truly premature babies tend to come out with challenges that they often know they need to fight against.
The magnitude of the gap between where they’re at and where they’re supposed to be
is the very thing that drives them
to make up for what they’re lacking.
It’s the babies right on the borderline
that, if born slightly too early,
tend not to do so well.
And if I think about it, it’s the same thing I see in my oldest.
If you tell her something might happen, it drives her crazy.
If you say its impossible,
she puts her shoulders back, narrows her eyes, and says,
And, as one who’s known her forever,
Good luck to those who try to get in her way when she’s in that place of resolve.
its often the very tension we dread
drives the resolution we long for.
My girls are learning to embrace this.
But I’m staying in it with them,
not only because this is a season where we celebrate a Saviour Who chose to walk with us in our messes
instead of prematurely resolving them,
but because I know all too well
that it’s often the drive to resolve too quickly
that leads to our worst decisions.
I wish I’d known that a few years ago.
I wish I’d known that the
-while exquisitely painful-
can be more productive
than trying to rush a resolution.
But, I’m not the first to make that mistake.
Take the disciples, for example.
Once they figured out who their Master was, they began to get used to the idea that
(hint: it was mostly circumstances)
would massage out the tension
on a grand scale
and set up a kingdom of peace and joy for all.
They weren’t wrong,
But they got the timing wrong.
And in hoping to rush the resolution of their circumstances,
they failed to see the need
for their Master to work through the broken circumstances
and resolve their character.
I think this might be why so many New Years Resolutions fail.
Too often, we center them on a desire for utopia,
instead of letting our current dystopia
make us into the full-grown Image-bearers
we were always intended to be.
It’s only when we make it there that we’ll be ready to receive the kingdom we long for.
For the last eleven years,
I’ve gotten to wrestle with this tension in a microcosm.
Every three to six months or so,
my husband and I navigate crazy traffic
to see a doctor whose specialty
whether my blood system
is still trying to kill me.
And for these last five years or so,
including that surprisingly sunny day only a few weeks ago,
the answer has been
that I’m incredibly close to remission
but still not quite there.
It can be maddening, that lack of resolve.
But its what I’ve been given.
And I think it might be so I can learn to embrace that there’s beauty in the
‘steady on, same, same’
current plan of my hematologist
whose expertise has evaluated the potential outcomes of change
and concluded that
this current course is best
even though there’s still tension.
And every day that I – get to – take those little white pills
I also remember
there is one resolution to this tension that I really don’t want.
At least, not yet.
So while many of us will rush into 2020 with big plans and lofty goals,
and visions of a future far better than the past,
or hunger for an ease and comfort
that we think will fulfill us,
I wonder if any of you are longing for a resolution
that can be kept no matter what’s coming.
I think it might look something like this.
to be resolved
by all the things that won’t resolve
Until the Resolver of the most unresolvable gap in history
returns and makes all things
more right than they ever have been.
And until then,
I resolve to trust
that He knows what He’s doing
with all the pieces that have been left as they currently are
Even if I don’t like it
And it doesn’t feel good.
I wasn’t called to feel good.
I was called to look like Him.
For those of you whose hearts ache this Christmas season,
I hear you.
I am with you.
It’s okay to ache.
It’s okay to want things to be different than they are.
There is such a thing as a holy discontentment,
but there is also such a thing as a holy
in which we not only long for the King to return,
but we also learn to trust
His bizarre-to-our-eyes plan
of ratcheting up the tension.
We really are in the pains of childbirth until now.
And it’s okay that we feel a bit anxious about it.
But on the day all that we are waiting for to be revealed,
I’m pretty sure we won’t remember a moment of the angst.
So as we sit here
in the one and a half hour mark
and learn to tell ourselves
that it’s okay that it seems to be too tense for too long,
I hope that you, like me,
are starting to see,
not only will the ending be worth it,
but it’s also best not to rush it.