This fall has been a dark one for me. Don’t get me wrong–I love my family, but sometimes life just feels overwhelming with four little kids, a good husband…and me feeling nothing but nothing inside.
Frequently the days stretch out into marathons, and even the early darkness of a fall night doesn’t give me relief.
Every few months, when my world gets dark and cold, I turn to stories. I used to grab a good book to read to pull me out of the feel-nothings, but for some reason my attention span isn’t long enough for books anymore.
Podcasts and streaming TV shows meet me where I am at the moment, and that is good. My kids tucked into their beds, I normally retreat to the couch with a drink and my laptop, to watch Madam Secretary on Netflix, desperate to find some meaning to life.
Sometimes I even let myself get drawn in to the stories found in the Scriptures, and the people I meet there become real to me. I especially love the Annunciation–who doesn’t?–and marveling at Mary’s yes to God, accepting the invitation to the Incarnation, consenting to carry the son of God in the darkness of her womb.
I haven’t had any angelic visitations like Mary, but I have heard the still, small voice of God calling me to something greater than myself, and I have found myself asking God to give me the same yes that Mary gives.
That’s why when I see Frozen II over Thanksgiving break, I get choked up when Elsa is outside on her balcony, hearing a voice that no one else can hear. My tears fall because Elsa’s song “Into the Unknown” reminds me how much I miss that still, small voice.
But right now, there’s no voice. Just emptiness. I long to be back in that place again where I am full of faith and full of life. I’m weeping because I remember. It’s been so long since I’ve heard a word from God. I want to keep saying yes to God like Mary, but it’s hard when everything seems so bleak. So silent.
Sometimes I wonder how Mary’s cousin Elizabeth feels after Zechariah returns from his temple service. In contrast to Mary receiving Jesus through words and angelic visitation, all Elizabeth has are looks and gestures from her husband, his embrace in the night, and the mysterious flutterings within her womb. He can’t say a word to her at all.
I wonder–how does she know she is pregnant? Maybe all the signs might be there, but she and Zechariah are so old and have longed for a child for decades…how can she be sure?
I imagine her feeling the nothingness inside, wondering if she can let her heart love someone she thinks might be there. Maybe she’s miscarried before; maybe she is terrified of losing this baby and fear consumes her. Maybe she’s laying in her bed, desperate for some sign that God hasn’t forgotten her.
Maybe she doesn’t hear the wagon outside her window because she is distracted by her emptiness, or maybe it’s the fear of being found empty, again.
But then, Mary’s greeting reaches her ears, and there is no doubt in her–body or soul–that a child indeed lives within her, and that the Word of God has come to her in the womb of her young cousin.
This is my advent longing–to hear the voice that calls me into the unknown again, whether it be in the wind–the Ruah, or the witness of the lives of Mary and Elizabeth, or the Word of God himself, speaking to my inmost heart–new promises and reminders that he has not forgotten the promises he has already spoken. I long for this emptiness I feel to be filled afresh with the Holy Spirit, and with Elizabeth to proclaim, “Blessed is she who believed that there will be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
But for now, I wait.
Amanda Martinez Beck is co-founder of Ruah Storytellers and lives in East Texas. She is passionate about the power of storytelling, particularly through podcasting. She and her husband Zachary cohost the Arkeo Camino podcast (pronounced “ark-a-o ca-mee-no”) and she is also the cohost of the Fat & Faithful podcast. She is the author of Lovely: How I Learned to Embrace the Body God Gave Me, published by Our Sunday Visitor.