The stars and planets seem to be aligned for it, in fact, because despite my past addiction, it's been absolutely easy to do this. No tears and no illicit liaisons "for old times' sake" in this break-up.
The last time I had an Advent that felt this freeing was in 1993. I spent the fall semester in Washington, D.C., studying through a theological consortium and living at the Luther House of Studies (now the Lutheran Center for Theology and Public Life). My Seminary had a program for this so it was an easy send-off for my dorm neighbor Kristen and myself. We were two young women absolutely thrilled to live outside of Minnesota for the first time in our lives. In fact, I'd say it was the best thing I'd ever done until that point.
~I met wonderful new people.
~I took fascinating classes in ethics and drawing (yes drawing! at this Seminary!) and urban ministries.
~I did important and fulfilling work with homeless women (here).
~I took many weekend trips sightseeing and visiting friends along the east coast.
~I attended weekly "house church" in our Lutheran student home.
~I learned to drive the circles of Washington, and to ride the wonderful Metro system.
~I lived in community which was crazy and fun.
I came home from those three full and filling months and I broke up with my boyfriend. He had been my high school and college sweetheart and it was way past time to move on as the relationship was not good nor good for me. It took a while to actually end that eight-year relationship but the semester in D.C. had changed me dramatically inside, and exterior changes had to follow.
With the monkey off my back, I felt freedom like I'd never felt before. I can easily say the following summer of 1994 was the best summer of my life.
~I lived with my Grandma and found out she was funny. She taught me to iron my clerical collar shirts too.
~I spent loads of time with a best friend from college, who was living nearby.
~I formed many other wonderful friendships.
~I salsa danced in a basement.
~I fended off advances from guys.
~ I got tan.
~I grew my hair out.
~I smiled and laughed a lot.
~I worked and learned as a student chaplain.
~I sang a lot of hymns.
~I discovered for the first time that I am a perfectionist (thanks to Father Garvey for that insight).
~I ate a lot of garden-fresh food prepared deliciously by friends.
~I saw the Northern Lights for the first time in my life.
~I played beach volleyball, throwing my ordinary sports caution to the wind.
~I rode a horse, terrified the entire time but not letting on and making it through.
~I went skinny dipping. Twice.
Sadly, the summer came to an end when in September I moved to Iowa to serve First Lutheran Church as an intern pastor. I must have still glowed with my newfound happiness and freedom (and my tan) though--whispers were that the new intern was pretty! (which makes me laugh today)
On the first Friday night in my new little town, I went with neighbors to the football game and took notice of the marching band director. Within a month those same neighbors introduced me to that director, George Zahn. In a surprising but nice continuation of the wonders of that summer, the fall was also the best. In December during Advent, George and I fell in love. By New Year's, we were engaged and in the summer of 1995 we were married. The rest, as they say, is history.
Sometimes we have to make way for the new by getting rid of the old. We clear out cobwebs, we de-clutter storage sheds, we get rid of our yarn stash and then new projects and ideas and ways of being spring to mind We break up with old boyfriends and new loves come along to surprise us. We give up old ways of spending time (Facebook) and find new and wonderful things to do.
Advent is a time of preparing and waiting. Preparing our hearts and minds and lives. Waiting for the new. Waiting for the light.
Here are the words from one of my favorite Advent hymns, Light One Candle To Watch For Messiah:
Light one candle to watch for Messiah: let the light banish darkness. He shall bring salvation to Israel, God fulfills the promise.
Light two candles to watch for Messiah: let the light banish darkness. He shall feed the flock like a shepherd, gently lead them homeward.
Light three candles to watch for Messiah: let the light banish darkness. Lift your heads and lift high the gateway for the King of glory.
Light four candles to watch for Messiah: let the light banish darkness. He is coming, tell the glad tidings. Let your light be shining.
Wayne L. Wold, b. 1954, © 1984 Fortress Press
(from With One Voice, no. 630)
Blessed be your Advent!