One year ago on Christmas Eve, I was holding my three-year-old niece in church as we sang “Silent Night.” My heart was as frozen as the sheet of ice outside. I was feeling much more “bleak midwinter” than “all is calm, all is bright.”
The candles were lit, and the magic was all around me. But no magic was making its way past my Gore-Tex heart.
Round yon virgin,
Mother and Child
Would I ever get to be a mom? I wondered. Another year had passed with no answer, no miracle. And I felt weary. Believing was too hard, too painful. Maybe it was time to concede graciously, to admit that this just wasn’t part of the plan. Maybe it was time to pick up the shreds of hope littered across the floor of my heart and move on.
That’s when my niece looked up and started staring at something near the front of the church. “What is it?” I asked. But she just kept staring, mute. Finally the spell was broken. “I saw an angel,” she told me matter-of-factly.
After the service was over, I did a full interrogation of my niece. Surely this was a misunderstanding or the product of an overactive imagination. But she wouldn’t budge from her claim. And in the quiet of my heart, I sensed God whispering, Do you believe I can still do the impossible? Do you think I’ve retired from performing miracles? You have plenty of head knowledge about me, but do you really believe? Do you believe I can work in your own life, right now, this year?
In that moment, I didn’t know. I wanted to believe, but I wasn’t sure I did.
So I did the best I could: I told God I would try. I decided my word for 2017 would be believe—not because I did, but because I wanted to learn. I hoped he could thaw my icy heart.
One year later, we were singing “Silent Night” again. Only this time I didn’t light my candle, because my arms were full. I was holding a baby in my arms—my own sleeping son.
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace
As I tried to wipe away the tears before they splashed onto my baby, I saw clearly that belief isn’t something you earn. It isn’t something you can take credit for. It’s a gift, pure and simple. It’s a piece of grace given to the likes of someone like me who doesn’t deserve it.
2017 didn’t have to end the way it did. I know full well that some people believe with more fervor and faithfulness than I could muster and don’t get the answer they long for. I don’t know why. But I do know that belief is worth it. Because even if we don’t get the thing we want, belief moves us. It changes us. It softens us. It thaws us.
No matter how things turn out, belief draws us close to the heart of the God who loves us.
This is the irrational season
when love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
there’d have been no room for the child.
Whatever you are believing God for in 2018 (or trying to believe), may God give you the courage to hope again. And when you can’t hope, may you feel the warmth of his arms around you.