Guest Blog by Paul Grace
When you count your marriage in decades, friends and family see the numbers. They rarely see the reality. We rarely want to see the reality of anything much. We prefer to hear about obstacles surmounted, the smell of success, the sanitised version.
We are entering Advent and that compression of reality into a bubble of sanitised fantasy. The Father Christmas and Tooth Fairy of religion. A cute pink baby. A saintly virgin mother. Some warm hay. Soothing carols. Mince pies and tea. All before eat, drink and be merry. Pagan passion and Godly purity married in a sea of presents, food and enforced jollity.
Is there hope in such a version? Or does it counter our self-imposed span of three short months when nails rip through flesh … derision and betrayal bring this sweet pink baby to a gory end .. the addendum of “but He rose after three days” a sop to our conscience?
I have a problem with Advent as I have a problem with Lent. We exclude and repeat so much in the church calendar. Always the next anniversary before the last is even cold. Predictable. Comfortable. The church always looking for new/creative ways to “bring the message alive.” Aware it is predictable. Is there hope in that?
Yes there is. Are you mad? Of course there is!
The birth of a child is a new life. Ask any mother:
Those tiny subtle changes. The am I or aren’t I? The knowing. The growing. The feeling. The sensing. The interaction. The relationship. The life inside. The worry the doubt the joy the heartburn the peeing the scans the changes the backache the whole tapestry of being two in one. Nine months if all goes well. The excitement growing as the due date comes ever closer. The expectation the nervousness the planning the dinky miniature clothes the endless paraphernalia. Then the pain of birth. Ripping bones sinews stretched past anything ever thought possible. And the weird squishy damp almost alien face. A new life.
There in that moment is the reason. That is hope.
And when Susan invited me to contribute this piece for her Advent series – to embroider a theme of Hope into these words, I was both honoured and daunted. Saying yes was not my decision. Saying yes was easy to do. Saying yes was His decision. He and I talk a lot. It’s impossible not to really.
Because God Soft Hands Jesus did not live only within Mary. He lives within me. God Soft Hands Jesus made His home within me. And not just me. Anyone who claims the right to be His child, His family, His disciple. All of us have this wondrous life inside …
But you have heard that before. That is just another predictable and comfortable phrase.
So I want to tell my unsanitised version of being possessed this Advent. Because it is even more beautiful than the chintzy version we will embrace again very soon.
When Susan asked, I allowed.
I allowed Him to speak through the tiny changes and knowing He and I have. Ask any mother and she will know what I mean.
That intuition. That tingle. That discomfort. That movement. That whisper.
Yet because I have the Creator of All living within me, He brings knowledge – wisdom – patience – generosity – gentleness – choices – invitations – guidance – and love. A love so pure it demands nothing and hopes for everything. He hopes for everything.
Everything good for me. His hope is not for God. His hope is entirely for me.
Was there ever a time when that happened with a child growing inside of you? Or was that child determined to make itself enough space, assertive enough to push and shove, respond to what you ate and drink with very clear happy or unhappy signals?
God is big enough not to have issues as we have issues. God is big enough to want everything good for each one of us. And if we turn Him down today? He waits. If we turn Him down tomorrow? He waits some more.
So Advent is okay, Christmas is fun, Easter is sad, the Resurrection is amazing … but that is just another compression of eternity. Often disconnected from reality – and so often disconnecting us from Him.
Because: He Lives Within.
And like a new mum I used to doubt that. I used to wonder if it was real. I imagined and doubted, questioned and hoped, didn’t really talk about – all a bit embarrassing really. I had to learn what being possessed was really like.
He has been chuckling a bit as I type these words. Looking over my shoulder at the screen. I know He is okay with this. And I know he is chuckling because “being possessed” is usually a “bad thing” – when Jesus did His stuff and hoiked the demons out. No one wants to admit they have lost control. Handed the “will to live” to another.
Funny thing about that.
He never asks me to. We have a partnership He and I. He does not “need me” nor do I need Him. He simply wants the best for me, and I the same for Him. It’s fun. It’s serious. It’s laidback. It’s intense. It is learning. It is relaxing. It is trusting. It is faith. It is real.
And the oddest thing of all?
I can switch Him off any time I choose. He can’t. He never can walk away from me. I have learned that as well. Like I have learned I have to be demanding. I have to say yes. I have to accept. I have to allow.
And even though I can turn Him off anytime I like … I don’t want to. We have grown to like each other, want each other, deserve each other, love each other. We go well together He and I.
So as we begin this year’s Advent calendar … are you demanding … are you possessed … are you in this glorious partnership …? Because I know Him and he knows me and we both know this:
He hopes the very best for you.
Paul Grace writes thoughtful, Spirit-filled conversations and questions, delving ever deeper into his relationship with God on his blog, Just me being curious. Join the conversation.