Editor’s Note: On this twenty-second day of our Advent blog series “Hidden Joys,” DC Service Corps volunteer Victoria Wangler shares an original piece of prose that touches on the specific details within a person’s life at a given moment: “How small it can seem (arriving to a new life in a new city, understanding that our earthly days are numbered and we leave our living loved ones behind). How big the crisis seems in the moment before it passes. How grand love is. How mysteriously the Holy Spirit weaves through our lives and our souls.”
Maybe this is how it starts:
Take the car after your parents fall asleep. Neutral down the driveway and the short neighborhood road; headlights off, radio silenced. Hold your breath until the last window is behind you. Shift the gears and feel your heart race. Send a prayer out into the cold air and don’t look back.
The stop lights change before you can touch the brakes.
Maybe this is how it goes:
Watch the first lights rise over the new city. Cold, crisp dawn; something blue and brilliant filling in the darkness. Taste the newness on your lips when you bare your face to the east. Don’t forget your bags; did you catch the right train? Oh yes, here we are. Step forward. Quickly now.
You can’t be late this time.
Maybe it finds you like this:
Kneel down in the darkness. Feel the thin carpet spark against your aching knees. The hotel alarm clock blinks out the time: 3:38 AM. The room stays cold no matter how much you finagle with the thermostat. Close your eyes and press your trembling lips to your clasped hands. Search for words that won’t come. Give in to the grief that has been haunting you for the past six years.
When you check out, leave a few dollars on the table next to the rumpled hand towel.
Maybe it arrives all at once:
Set down the dishes on the counter with a sudden clarity. At the kitchen table, your son pours over his middle school math homework, brow furrowed in his focus. In the harsh half light of the LED bulb, his profile is thrown into stark relief. Your hands are wet with soapy water. Clutching them against your stomach, you suddenly see him as a baby in your arms. Then a kindergartener. Then an eighteen year old, fresh and eager for college. Then a thirty year old at the crossroads of young adulthood and blooming fatherhood. Then a retiree, his future open like before. By then, you will be gone. Will you haunt his memory like he haunts yours now?
He turns a page in his textbook and heaves a sign. You turn back to the sink.
Maybe it comes gradually, slow and sweet as springtime:
Do not panic. That is the key. Much easier said than done. That’s the only thing you can tell everyone the day of. “Easier said than done,” you joke, your hands shaking and heart pounding. You’ve loved her for eleven years. Eleven years, five months, and two days. Not that you’re keeping track. It took six of those eleven years to realize it was love. Turns out that love looks like a lot of things. Love feels like a lot of things, too.
Today, you’re going to ask her to love you forever.
Maybe you know it once it’s gone.
Maybe you glimpse it in the reflection of bus windows and the echo of your grandmother’s laugh.
Maybe you only see it at the end, God and the Heavenly Hosts singing you forward to Paradise.
Maybe you saw it only at the beginning, screaming out of your mother’s womb into earth’s light.
Maybe we’re never meant to know for sure, and that’s okay.
Maybe we already know and we forgot.
Maybe it still lingers–cutting through our dreams with a lingering sensation. Drifting across our floorboards with our footsteps. Chasing each breath that we take into our lungs and then push out. Sleeping alongside our blood in the night.
Maybe this is one mystery that I will never understand.
I have always been baffled by God’s power and knowledge. As a human, I am totally overwhelmed when I try to grasp how God sees, knows, loves, and creates all. It is so far beyond my understanding, and that is a good thing.
God is not human. God is God. I–with my human brain, human heart, and human soul–could never truly grasp God’s omniscience. When I was younger, this understanding brought me peace. There is so much tragedy and violence in our world. So many lives snuffed out so unfairly and cruelly. I have continuously wrestled with big questions for God:
Why me? Why did I get born into so much privilege? (Privilege of love, privilege of race, privilege of health, privilege of socioeconomic status, privilege of ability.)
Who am I to serve you to call myself Your humble servant in all my failings and shortcomings?
Who am I to be blessed with so much opportunity, so many loved ones, and such happiness?
Why do I have such good things while others go without?
I know there will never be easy, fixed answers to these questions. In my humanness, I cannot see the bigger picture as God sees it. Only God knows the why and the how and the because. God knows all, and we trust in God.
One verse that was brought to my mind with this Advent blog post prompt of prophecy is Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
I believe that all life is precious. All living things, from the smallest blade of grass to the most lonely human, are beloved by God. We all have a prophecy to live into and grow through. I can only guess at my “reason” for being here now–being alive, being in the DC Service Corps as a part of FMS, and being an active Catholic among all the other titles that I claim. I don’t have those answers, but I imagine they are multifaceted. No life has a singular reason for existing–every single action we take (or don’t take) ripples out from us, affecting dozens and dozens of other events. Like a grand web with an infinite number of strings, our lives continuously touch each other’s. We, true brothers and sisters through Christ, are bound together for the end of time.
In this prose piece, I wanted to touch on the specific details within a person’s life at a given moment. How small it can seem (arriving to a new life in a new city, understanding that our earthly days are numbered and we leave our living loved ones behind). How big the crisis seems in the moment before it passes. How grand love is. How mysteriously the Holy Spirit weaves through our lives and our souls.
During this season of Advent, I am trying to surrender more into the mystery that is God. Giving myself space and grace to fall into human uncertainty and worry. There, I believe that God waits for us. God holds us in love and promises us that we were always meant to be.