Advent: Emmanuel

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Where is God when I feel lonely? Where is God when I look in a mirror and struggle to even recognise myself looking back? Where is God when the world is spinning and speeding and my impulse is to detach and head for the hills? Is God with me?
It’s advent. The season in the church calendar where we wait for the arrival of Christ into the world, take stock of what we are waiting for and reimagine what it means to prepare ourselves to yet again welcome the promise of Emmanuel into the world.
My adult life, admittedly brief, is one marred with depression and anxiety. I have for the most part successfully navigated my twenties and my teens with the help of a combination of friends, family, church and medication. I have functioned within the world in a way that has meant my mental health has usually not suffered the indignity of scrutiny and I have built an independent and self sufficient life. My independence, my ability to detach, to dissociate and to compartmentalise have been my secret weapons in times of great difficulty for me. Until recently I considered them God given gifts and strengths to pride myself on. Then in February I got married.
What a shame that I had missed the message of Emmanuel for so many years. What a shame that I had become so effective at being independent, at detaching, at dissociating and compartmentalising. What a shame that while I had realised Katie was a Goddess, I hadn’t yet realised that she was also God masquerading as a beautiful girl, waiting to show me all the wonderful and horrible things about myself that needed some attention, focus, integration and communion.
But it wasn’t down to being married. It was a change in perspective. I’m slow and stubbornly introverted. The shock to my system that came with my new living arrangement surely had a part to play as the catalyst for my newly found openness to others. But I still have the same family, friends and church that I had in January, just a new appreciation for them. What a shame that it took me twenty nine years to see that in my biggest times of difficulty God was with them, in them and through them, and that by disappearing (which I still do, although less and less frequently) I could grow through it rather than wade in it.
Independence is an important condition, just as self-preservation is an important drive, but neither brought me freedom. Learning to be consciously interdependent has been the most challenging experience of my life so far, but I’m already seeing how worthwhile it is. God truly is with me. Waiting to be seen. Every time I truly see someone, I see God. When I see beauty in someone I see God. When I fail to find the beauty, I discern where God’s grace is yet to find it’s bed in my spirit. I hope that the same is true for those that see me, and that by the end of my life beauty will prevail.


Rob.

Rob Byrne