Faux leather groaned as I stretched back in the recliner. I picked up my advent devotional from the table next to me and, using only my left hand, managed to get it open to Chapter 1. Turning it face-down on my lap, I closed my eyes for a second. Then I opened them again and watched the antibiotics drip-drip-dripping from the IV bag over my head into my right arm.
Only a few of the other eight chairs had occupants, and each of us were absorbed in whatever we’d brought to pass the time. Flipping the book back over, I sighed. It was only December 2, and I was already behind in my devotional.
I fought back another yawn. Even with caffeine, I could barely keep my eyes open. I’d been feeling so much better—better enough that I was planning to head back to Nashville and school in January. But there I was, completely exhausted. Was I getting worse again?
Healing isn’t linear, I reminded myself for the umpteenth time. This isn’t a permanent setback.
Still, I was so tired. And it was Lyme-tired, the kind that I usually can’t sleep through—at least not during the day. The kind of tired I never knew existed before I got sick.
Focus. I dragged my brain back to the task at hand.
Fluorescent light glared off the pages. I read my two chapters, and, closing the book, turned the volume up on my phone so my earbuds would drown out the instrumental CD playing in the background. As I flipped through my music, I thought about bible study the night before and our conversation about God’s presence, about prayer and abiding.
I’d been tired then, too. The thought of trying to approach God felt exhausting. I didn’t have the emotional energy to reach out, especially when he didn’t seem keen on reaching back.
I tapped my dim phone screen awake and pulled up Andrew Osenga’s “Too Far to Walk”—the song that’d been running through my head since the night before. He sang,
Jesus, you’ll have to come get me,
Cause it’s too far to walk tonight.
I swallowed hard, then turned toward the wall so only the plant in the corner would see my silent tears.
For so long I’ve tried to get to God. I’m Type-A, strong, independent, stubborn. I like boxes, and I like checking them off. I like doing things myself. And I base my perception of God’s nearness and pleasure on how well I’m performing.
Only that isn’t working anymore. This illness brings me to the end of my strength again and again, and I keep finding myself too tired and hurt and angry to check off all the boxes.
And I don’t know where God is in the midst of all of this.
Advent has seemed different this year. It’s a season that makes me think about joy and peace and hope, but those things have been hard to muster up lately. I don’t know how to prepare my messy heart for the coming of Christ.
But maybe that’s the point.
These weeks aren’t just about how well we can prepare for Jesus. They’re about the God who bends low, who comes for us when we are too tired to crawl to him. The one who makes his home with us and in us—even when we haven’t had the strength or the energy or the time to get ready for him.
He comes to us in our messy, broken, dark places, and he is Emmanuel. The God who is with us.
The God who, when we are spent, spends himself to bring us back to him.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.