Finding the Quiet this Advent Season

0xeqj06wgro-steve-halama.jpgThis Advent I’ve been struggling for silence and stillness. My pursuit for calm isn’t new, but it has a newfound urgency. The cacophony that erupted early in the morning one month ago today has left me despondent most days. For a week straight after the Presidential election I absorbed as many of the noises as I could stomach, but I found that I couldn’t really hear much of anything. How was I to know what I ought to do if I didn’t find a better way to listen?

So, I started cutting down on the noise. I deleted Facebook on my phone. I limited social media consumption to no more than fifteen minutes a day. I pledged not to pick up a screen when I’m with my daughter. I read the news in the morning and otherwise let it be. And I increased my times of quiet. I resumed journaling on paper, and I started a short daily gratitude practice. I read more books.

I’m not certain that my strategy is the best one. Daily I ask myself, am I insulating myself too much? It’s possible that I’ve swung too far in the other direction. But in general I know that my tendency is to underestimate my need for restorative practices. I remember once telling a therapist that my only criterion for whether I agreed to do something was if I was physically able to do it. She responded, “You do know that isn’t sustainable, right?” Logically, I agree. But in this chaotic moment, I feel pulled to say yes to everything–to every donation, to every request for help, to every march or protest. That’s all mixed in with the noise.

I find myself (quietly) praying the same words over and over again, Show me where to show up. I’ve often thought of the verse in Proverbs, 3:5: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.”  If there has ever been a time when I have felt the limitations of my own understandings, it has been this past month.

This Advent I wonder if we might reflect on how God often shows up in ways we least expect and how that might lead us to new ways of serving others and standing for justice in the wake of this Presidential election. May we all find the quiet space we need to prepare for the unexpected.