The staff at The Well is committing to find “five minutes of peace” daily in Advent. (Join us! Find the details here.) For the next few weeks, we’re sharing reflections on our own experiences of this practice. We hope that hearing what this is like encourages you during your own Advent and gives you a peek behind the curtain at the people who make Women in the Academy and Professions happen.
I don’t bare my soul often and most definitely not to people I don’t know. So it was a little stressful to consider sharing my reflection as I already had a hunch how my five minutes of peace might turn out.
This fall, I’ve been intermittently using the Upper Room’s A Guide To Prayer for devotions. I was looking forward to Advent since the book starts with this season and I wanted to use it regularly in this new church year.
I had two contradictory feelings as I looked forward to Advent. The first was one of expectation — What will the Lord do as I wait for him? And the second was one of unease — Why do I want God to speak to me when he’s already told me things that I’m not being obedient to? Unhealthy heart habits and patterns of living came to mind. The habits we think we can manage, until we can’t.
For my five minutes of peace, I decided to daily “sit” with a Scripture verse from the assigned passage. My practice has been to curl up on my couch with a throw keeping me warm, read the passage, find my verse, close my eyes and let the words of Scripture sink into me for five minutes. Some days a verse would leap out of the page, most often I would be drawn to a verse and occasionally I had to deliberately pick the verse I would meditate on because nothing felt special. And in the interests of honesty, between then and now I’ve missed a day or two.
Looking back at the verses that resonated with me in the days prior to Advent, I see that God brought the need for repentance, the reality (and permanence) of forgiveness and his joy in me to the forefront of my consciousness. God showed himself to be an uncool parent who — cringe — sings over me!
In the first week of Advent often God reminded me of my identity as a “preparer” — one who both prepares the way of the Lord, as well as one who prepares the roads for the people. There was also warning to produce fruit in keeping with repentance and an exhortation to be ready for his coming. There was the promise of his presence and a call to be discerning, imitating the God who judges all things justly.
I got the sense that God was dealing with me at my core, the real me, the one who longs for integrity within. Not the me who has other identities and commitments that go with them, important though they are.
I believe as the weeks of Advent go by, that God will continue to meet me in my inner world through my daily meditations. If I miss a day here and there, I know he’ll speak the next day I seek him. It is exciting not knowing exactly what he’ll say each day. I’m sure that some days the daily words will not make much sense, until I look back on the week or even the month and notice the pattern they weave.
And I know that the work he will do in me will not be just a preparation to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but necessary soul work to make me ready for when Christ returns.
My prayer for us all this Advent is to echo these words from Charles Wesley’s hymn:
“Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit,
Into every troubled breast!
Let us all in Thee inherit;
Let us find that promised rest.
Take away our bent to sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
End of faith, as its Beginning,
Set our hearts at liberty.”