It was a cold but lovely scene when my husband took me and our two littlest children on a hike. In celebration of my fortieth birthday, we drove to a state park a short way from our new home. On one side of the trail, tall trees, white and bare, were evenly situated and you could see the landscape of the forest floor in way that wouldn't be possible in the spring when foliage would fill out all the empty spaces. On the other side, a river ran cold and brown along the campground.
Whenever things are aesthetically cold, I sometimes feel frightened. Coldness, darkness, and wintertime remind me of the ending of things. And usually, that makes me afraid, anxious, and slightly desperate for a change of scene.
As we walked, Ecclesiastes began to play through my head and I said to my husband, "Everything is meaningless."
What a thought for a birthday celebration, right?
My husband, used to my melancholy and a little melancholy himself, only nodded. But the thing is, I wasn't sad this time. I was actually a little relieved. It's not that I really think everything is meaningless. But I do get a sense sometimes, when the veil of life is pierced through, if only momentarily, that the things we strive for and hope to accomplish, our daily worries and tasks, all attempts to give our life more meaning, will be only a flash in time when we are gone.
And, it might sounds slightly dramatic, but this year, I've been coming to peace with that. Forty places me squarely in the middle of life (or less, because there are no guarantees) and I envision the years rolling out before me quickly. Every year comes faster and I imagine they will eventually leave me breathless with their pace.
Yes, there is a time for everything, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says. Perhaps, this Advent is a time for tears and mourning, for grief and tearing down. For waiting.
But as I continue to wait, in the middle of Advent, and in the middle of my life, I am also filled with a sense of great joy. Maybe this is the time to ponder, the time to enjoy my work, the time to enjoy my babies and my husband, and the time to enjoy hikes in the woods, even if they are fleeting.
Great Rejoicing by Rain for Roots