Monday, December 24, 2012

The Journey from A to B and the Chance for Greater Love

I think most of us seek to get from A to B in the most efficient, least dangerous, most pain-free, worry-free, pleasant, comfortable way. If it's at all possible for us to get from A to B while enjoying a drink with a small umbrella in it, or while having our feet massaged, or while having someone read aloud passages from Fyodor Dostoevky's The Brothers Karamazov while enjoying a drink with a little umbrella on it and having our feet massaged--then we'll go for it.

But the thing I am noticing again, and again, and again, and again is that around this particular day, when we think of Christ's birth, is that the whole nativity story makes absolutely no sense. Zero sense.

On a scale of sense-making, where zero is the idea of trying to squeeze an oversized lampshade down a red stirrer from Dunkin' Donuts, and ten is try to use a Dunkin' Donuts red stirrer to stir your coffee, the nativity story is a zero.

Forget zero, the nativity story nets a negative number.

But maybe that makes a whole lot of sense. God decides to send the savior of the world to earth, and if we were God, we'd be running the numbers. Immediately, we'd have cost-effectiveness graphs--bam!--and we'd be searching all the crime stats for the absolute safest possible town in the absolute safest possible country in the whole planet. And we'd be choosing the most experienced--and wealthiest--couple to find as his parents. And we'd be sure to load up our savior with heavy does of life insurance, health insurance, fire insurance, home insurance--the whole deal. And we'd hire the best consulting firm to process exactly how to raise that savior, and how to prepare the 'consumer' to meet and greet that savior. And--no doubt!--we'd have a few book deals lined up for the uncles, aunt, parents, and for the savior himself. From the get-go,., we're talking multiple deals, at auction.

But God didn't work that way. Instead, God choose the absolute most culturally dangerous situation--a young, unmarried virgin--to become pregnant. Then, God choose the exact moment before a census, so that Joseph and Mary would have to travel during her pregnancy. And we're not even talking here about a three-hour jaunt to the in-laws. We're talking about a multi-day journey wherein food is in short supply, nights are cold, an old donkey is exhausted. And then--to top it all off--God chose to lead Joseph and Mary to the barnhouse to birth the savior amidst hay (which is really quite pokey, prodding stuff, no matter what anyone says), animal poop, and absolutely no plan.

Bam. There they are: new parents away from home with no help and no money and no place to stay.

In essence, then, God brought Jesus into the world in the precise, most specific, utterly exact opposite way any of us in our sense-making minds would choose to do.

But, if we really think about it, it does kind of make sense in a weird way.

It makes sense, especially, if you think about life before children and life after children.

Sure, the journey to get anywhere before kids looks enticing. That nice, slender, thin line. And then before we know it: B! We made it to B! But the thing about the ridiculous journey to get from A to B after kids is this: by the time we get to B, we're different.

B is the same no matter how we travel, but we're different. All those crazy spikes and drops and whirls and twirls have changed us. And a lot of times, not for the better. I wish I could always journey from A to B and encounter those loops and swoops with great hope, faith, and even love. But I don't. However, I think the latter journey affords us the opportunity that we all are desperately seeking beyond the quick fixes and the cost-effectiveness strategies.

The second journey allows us the space to become what we could become.

Which leads us back to God. If he allowed Mary and Joseph to have that first kind of journey to welcome their son Jesus, I wonder what kind of parents they'd be. My hunch is maybe not as good. Something about the danger of the journey, the lack of safety and insurance and the crazy loops and swoops got them to point B as different people--stronger, more faithful, more loving.

Tonight, on the eve of Christ's birth, I keep thinking about this prayer Mother Teresa used to pray whenever something truly difficult occurred: Lord, help me see this moment as a chance for greater love.

And maybe that one part of what God was thinking when he gave Mary and Joseph that second kind of journey from A to B. The nativity story isn't easy, but maybe that's because God knew that to get them to point B in the fastest, most comfortable, easiest way possible wouldn't prepare them for the great love that was about to be unleashed in and through and for them.

And maybe the same is true for us. On whatever loop or swoop or curl or twirl or whirl we're on in our journey, maybe part of the reason we're on it is to prepare us to be the kind of people we need to be so that when we finally reach point B, we'll actually be ready. We may fall down, exhausted, when we get there, but our arms will be open and we'll be smiling and maybe we'll even look back and see everything we went through as those chances for greater love.