At the Advent Retreat this past weekend we explored our theme: Certainty in Waiting: Witnessing the Light. From the conversations around our circle it was very clear that people have very strong feelings about the word ‘certainty’. For many, it is a word that implies uncertainty as well as rigidity and dogma. I found this fascinating, as that is not at all my understanding. One thing I love about SAPC is that you are not shy to voice your opinions and to share them freely. What a gift this is in a diverse community!
I’ve always seen ‘certainty’ as something I can be supported by: like sun following the rain, or that light will pierce the darkness, or that new life replaces death or that God’s for love for me is as strong as God’s concern for the universe. Obviously, being certain of these things provides me a sense of peace; comfort really.
One of the quotes we reflected on came from Journey to the Four Directions, by Jim Berenholtz which I print here slightly edited: “We come to a clear, shallow river in the forest. It is quiet here except for singing birds and the sound of the moving water. Don Adrian speaks: For many suns you have walked across the lands of my ancestors, and in all your experiences, you have seen how everything has two sides, just like this river. To see life in terms of good and bad limits our ability to create and be whole. Embracing polarity is necessary to bring about creation. Like the river, we could not exist without polarity. Were it not for darkness, would we still seek the light? Were it not for shade, would we not get burned? Find the gift that each side has to offer. Let those gifts be married within you. Free yourself of judgment. Become like the river; free yourself to be a witness of the light.”
To become like a river, embracing the polarity of the two sides of the banks of our lives, is what life/faith is all about. There are times when we are ‘in the flow’ – – in the all of life (as it were) and there are times when we are stagnant. There are times when we are certain of things to come while at other times we are utterly clueless — absolutely uncertain. And, isn’t this what Advent is all about?
Advent is about the already and the not-yet. It is about waiting and watching and hoping and longing. With this said, however, Advent holds the certainty, ‘if I may’ of knowing that our waiting is not merely an empty hoping. In fact, Carolyn Foster sent me this from the I Ching, which isn’t from our Christian tradition, but definitely speaks to what we know, understand and experience in Advent.
“Waiting is not mere empty hoping. It has the inner certainty of reaching the goal. Such certainty alone gives that light which leads to success…. It is only when we have the courage to face things exactly as they are, without any sort of self-deception or illusion, that a light will develop out of events, by which the path to success may be recognized.” (Wilhelms/Baynes translation)
As we wait; as we wade into the rivers of our own experiences; as we seek to witness the light, may we, in fact, be the LIGHT we seek to witness, as we open our hearts and lives and selves to one another this Season of Christmas.
Waiting with Certainty to witness the Light,
Jeffrey Steven Gaines