My husband leaves early in the morning, long before the sun has even thought to peep over the horizon. His car has a specific rattle when he revs it up, one that I can typically hear from the other end of the house. But today, I drifted in and out of consciousness and missed his departing noise completely. It always bothers me when I don't hear it--how could I have fallen back asleep so fast, just underneath the surface of awaking? How could I miss it? And then, within seconds of wondering, I am falling again, hearing nothing but my odd pre-sunrise dreams.
What am I asleep to? What am I not hearing?
This fall, I took a nonfiction class where one of the assignments was to write about a place. I waxed eloquent about our extended family beach cottage, painted cheerful butter yellow, cozy and sandy and falling out-of-style amidst high rises and mansions sprouting up around it. Feeling nostalgic, I sent it to the cousin who owns the property. She wrote back, "I very much enjoyed your essay, but I offer you one correction. The cottage is not yellow, nor has it ever been. It is green."
What am I mis-seeing? What am I not seeing at all?
On All Saints Sunday, we always begin worship with hymn number 711, one of my favorites of all time, which welcomes tears into my eyes from the very first chord. I've always loved the last stanza especially: From earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast, through gates of pearl stream in the countless host... I always loved the idea of gates constructed of "pearl stream," whatever that was. A heavenly material indeed, maybe made from some divine oyster. Two weeks later, we sang the very same hymn, triumphant in the midst of deafening sorrow at a dear friend's unexpected funeral. From earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast, through gates of pearl stream in the countless host... And after 30 years, in this moment, it suddenly clicked. Through gates of pearl/stream in the countless host. Noun/verb.
What am I reading or understanding one way that needs to be examined differently?
These questions aren't meant to imply that my ways of hearing (or not), seeing, and understanding all of these things have been wrong. I kind of love my creativity in these--especially the gates of pearl stream bit. But they do remind me that I can fall asleep easily, that I can root myself so firmly in a version or definition of something that needs to be re-looked at, from another perspective.
In Advent (and always), keep awake, keep alert--be mindful of the pieces of the picture I'm missing.