From the Rector…
Birthday parties were always a big deal at my house when I was growing up and my twelfth birthday was to be no exception. I planned a slumber party to celebrate. For weeks before the big night, my friends and I talked about all the things we would do—tell scary ghost stories, paint our toes, eat popcorn, and NOT go to sleep! I got a new sleeping bag and a new pair of pajamas. As the day approached and my excitement mounted, I learned that I had a soccer game that day. The game was scheduled for 5pm and the party was to start at 6pm. My father reassured me that I would be home right at the start of the party and how great that was that I wouldn’t have to wait for everyone to show up because they would already be there waiting for me. Now I was excited even more about my party and I loved playing soccer, so this really did seem like the best of both worlds.
The soccer game was great. We won and in no small part to an amazing header I had that stopped the other team from scoring a goal—of course I also got kicked in the face and got my first black eye, but it was still a rush. The game had run late, and my dad and I hurried from the park to the house. I was all a twitter—talking about the game and excited about the party. As we turned into the driveway of our house, I realized something was wrong. The house was not all lit up and as I got closer to the house, I couldn’t hear any noise. I glanced at my father; he had a worried expression on his face. As soon as he noticed me looking at him, he smiled and reassured me that everything was fine. I knew it wasn’t, but I didn’t say anything. I put my hand on the doorknob knowing in my heart that no one had come to my party. The voices of self-doubt and loathing welled up inside me as I decided that none of my friends had come to the party.
I opened the door and stepped into the foyer and immediately lights turned on, there were balloons everywhere, and all my friends jumped out and shouted, “Happy Birthday!” But it was too late, in the moment at which I had turned the knob to face my rejection and loneliness (or so I thought), I had begun to cry. And even as my friends’ smiles and cheers surrounded me, that crying turned into gut wrenching weeping. My emotions had gotten the better of me—the highs and lows of the day coupled with the building anticipation from the weeks before were too much.
My friends and my parents, even my little sister, gathered around me to reassure me and hug me and help calm me down. I was a mess—emotionally and physically. My mother thought it was my black eye, my friends thought they had done something wrong, my father was frustrated by all the pre-teen hormones—it was not one of my finest moments. I was able to get myself under control again and calmed down and my mother immediately went into action organizing a fun game for everyone to play to distract us from my meltdown even as she grabbed a steak from the freezer to put on my eye.
The birthday party ended up not only being a huge success, but one of my favorites. We danced and sang to MTV, played games, scared each other with silly ghost stories, ate our weight in popcorn, and, sometime well after midnight, fell fast asleep. When we woke in the morning, we got leftover cake for breakfast along with pancakes and bacon. One by one my friends left, and I slept the rest of the day—exhausted not simply from the night but the emotional rollercoaster that had led to it.
Looking back on the experience, I began to realize how my expectations and the anticipation I built up over the party had contributed to an emotional overload. Sure, it was coupled by my feelings surrounding the soccer game, but I was less concerned about that. Over time I learned not to build up a lot of expectation when anticipating something. At times that is helpful, I don’t get quite so anxious about surgery or other unpleasant, yet necessary, experiences. At other times, it is to my detriment—my lack of an outward expression of enthusiasm for a thing can seem as if I don’t care as others around me think I should be more excited.
The season of Advent is the perfect season of anticipation for me. Though many focus on the excitement in anticipation of Christmas and the celebration of Jesus’ birth with presents and feasts, I like the part about anticipating Jesus’s second coming—the one that we wait for with bated breath, swaddled in mystery, and unsure of the day or the hour that we will know that heavenly kingdom manifested on earth. Its not something most people get excited about this time of year. But for me, Advent is a time in which our excitement starts to simmer, slowly building up in anticipation of God’s arrival—the first time and the not-quite-yet second time as well.
Light and Life,