Advent: Life is Bitter Cold in the In-between

Advent: Life is Bitter Cold in the In-between December 2, 2018

 It was a bitter cold mid-December morning. The tension was thick. I took my time doing last-minute checks on the luggage bag strapped to the top of our SUV. All seven of us: my wife, three kids and two dogs gathered in front of our house, we said our goodbyes to the place we called home for the past five years. Once in our vehicle, the heaviness lingered in silence for a few minutes as we sat in our Ford Explorer in our driveway. None of us wanted to leave our home and drive into the unknown. This place had become our refuge. 

Cars driving through a blizzard.
“For outlandish creatures like us, on our way to a heart, a brain, and courage, Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning – not home but the place through which we must pass if ever we are to reach home at last.” — Frederick Buechner

There was trepidation about our move to Oregon. We hoped it was the end of the journey we’d been on for the last 20 years, but nothing was farther from the truth. Things haven’t been the same since we left Colorado.

We hit a blizzard in Wyoming, somewhere between Laramie and Rawlins. It wasn’t the worst blizzard we drove through that one was yet to come.

We made a stop in Northern California to see family.

This is the place we noticed all hell breaking loose for our family: The moment we pulled up to the curb we saw the eviction of a tenant at the place we would be staying. About, a day later we saw a motorcycle accident in front of the house—I helped give medical attention to the motorcycle rider.

Later, my wife and I saw the aftermath of an attempted suicide at the Macy’s department store. But the most difficult we endured was the upheaval in our family. My wife and I were arguing nonstop, and our kids were on an emotional rollercoaster witnessing everything happening around them.

We left California sooner than we had planned because of all the stress. As we crossed the California/Oregon border, we hit another blizzard. This one was by far more treacherous than the one we drove through in Wyoming—we are talking total whiteout road conditions most of the way up from the California border to Bend, Oregon. We came close to dying several times.

We are passing through the in-between.

Frederick Buechner in his book The Magnificent Defeat talks about the human journey through the lens of the first coming of Christ. He speaks of how Bethlehem is not the end of our journey, but only the beginning. Buechner says this,

“For outlandish creatures like us, on our way to a heart, a brain, and courage, Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning – not home but the place through which we must pass if ever we are to reach home at last.”

Five years later.

It still feels like we’re driving through that blizzard; as if we’ve been in whiteout conditions ever since. Our visibility is limited to just beyond our noses and our footing is slippery. Danger is everywhere and with no clearly marked path. We’re caught in the in-between of where we were and where we should be. We are passing through the valley of the shadow of death—somewhere between Bethlehem and our true home.

 

Life in the in-between is bitter cold; it’s colder than any blizzard we’ve ever experienced. Sometimes it’s hard telling which way is up or which way is down. Sometimes we only have words like what the gospel writer recorded to Theophilus to help guide us:

“Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” — Luke 21:28

Manger Scene
As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” — Luke 3:4-6

The Season of Advent.

We happen to be in the Advent season as I write this. For many Christians Advent is where we celebrate the first coming of Christ. It’s the time where God arrives wrapped in swaddling clothes; joining us in our humanity and serving as a reminder of God’s faithfulness.

I believe Advent is more than this. It’s the time of the in-between, the in-between of the first coming and second coming of Christ. As my pastor said, “Advent is the hope of God speaking into our reality and our disappointments.” 

Advent is the place of passing, where God draws near, calms the storms and clears the roadways. It’s in this place God is speaking to us, telling us our redemption is drawing near. I’m trying my darnedest to be still and listen for the voice that’s guiding us through the place which we must pass so we can reach home at last. Some days are easier than others.

About Joe Puentes
Joe Puentes is a ragamuffin, sojourner, writer, speaker, entrepreneur, husband, dad and heart attack survivor. He owns a coffeehouse, which he operates with two of his young adult children. You can find some of Joe's writing on Patheos.com, Fathom Magazine, Poetry in Form, The Writing Cooperative. You can read more about the author here.
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