Of Lions and Lambs, Apples and Oranges

“Stay with us, O Lord Jesus Christ: Light in our darkness.”   -Taize Community

I light the second Advent candle, and as I look at the two candles now alight, I see their differences; they are no longer the same; one is shorter, farther gone, the other just starting out. The prophetic text for the day (Isaiah 11:1-9) talks about the light that dispels the darkness of different parties- the wolf and lamb, the leopard and kid, the calf, the lamb and fatling, the child and the snake, all in harmony in the Peaceable Kingdom. How often I face darkness in relationships with others, those who have hurt my feelings, those who don’t “get” me, those whom I don’t get either, those whose life, style or way of being seems beyond my ken. How much I need the Advent light to shone on and heal the entangling alliances I have as a human being — family, friends, acquaintances, those encountered in the business of the day, and bring us into harmony!

The illuminated side of human differences is diversity that embroiders and thickens the texture of our relationships. How entertaining and enriching it is to encounter the particularity of each new person we meet! But the dark side of the diversity is the tangled up expectations, the mis-communications, the hurts and slights that plague us when another human being wounds, ignores or betrays us. I love so many people in this world, differences and all. However, much too often I get snarled in reactive and unkind  thinking about people upon whom I had placed hopes and expectations. And the wickets get sticky! It is a challenge for me, the lamb, to be wiling to start all over again to be open to the lion; after all, I was hurt before. I resist another face off between me, the kid, and the leopard whose spots I can never predict. It’s even worse when I have to own that sometimes I am the wolf or the bear, even if I can justify my words and actions in the name of protecting my loved ones, myself, or just because it seems Right!

Isaiah not only describes the tranquil and peaceful relations that characterizes the intended rule of God for which we are waiting and looking, but he describes the Spirit that lights upon the One who comes…wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and the fear of the Lord, delight in the awe of God. Maybe that’s the Spirit I need to which I need to attend during Advent dimness… wisdom to understand that one who continually baffles me, insight into the one who continually wounds me, delight in the unique conundrum of a person that has landed in my life for reasons that I don’t comprehend. And for eyes to see that the one who confounds me is a beloved child of God, no matter what he or she seems like to me, for ears to hear the authentic voice beyond the chatter and posture.

With a change of perception by the Spirit, I also need to flex those sinews of willingness to let that knowledge and wisdom lead me to Love. I don’t need to expect change in that other or make myself into the proverbial doormat to be used for mud-scraping, but I do need to be open  to love that other with a Love that is more than I can stir up for myself. It means forgiving, accepting, trusting that in humility I will be held and cared for by the Love that will not let me go. In the dimness it’s hard for me to imagine how that is even possible- lions and lambs, apples and oranges, my nemeses and me, all relaxing and feasting together with the Child that leads us  around in peace and delight together in God’s intended rule?  But I want to look for it, to await it, and to participate in it.

“Stay with us, O Lord Jesus Christ: Light in our darkness.”

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