There is a barrenness to the land right now. Limbs of stripped trees stretch into self against the cold. These words are written by fireside and waning light spilled into windows, faint glow of December hue, a streak of grey and blue.
I have, too, been barren as of late. The monks called it acedia, a lethargy in belief, sluggish heart and mind trying to still hold to true things but shrugging them off as well, a jacket half-loosed, body warm and cold at once.
This past Sunday, the lesson from Isaiah puddles in the chasm of my flesh and one promise stands out:
And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war.
The homily takes this word to the global arc. These are prophetic words of literal wars ending. These are the words to hope in when Syria is armed or Iran muses nuclear. These are the proclamations we stand on when drones rove silent and guns are leveled at school children.
But I find myself resisting the global arc, the perspective that sees more than this meter of square space that body and limbs stretch out like cold barren trees to make my own. I am asking myself about these swords that shall be hammered out into plowshares and this season in which war is no longer learned.
Advent is expectant. Advent looks back on the first expectation: the coming of Jesus. Advent looks forward to the second expectation: the coming of Jesus again.
We live in the now and the not yet, and it is in this middling kingdom I hear the Spirit ask: what is your sword? What are your swords? To whom do you teach war?
I appreciate the global perspective. It is needed.
I need to remember there is a promise about the peace that shall come, the protection of those children who meet Death when Death was not theirs to meet.
But I need to remember, too, in the acedia, in the bareness, that I have my own swords that could be practiced toward cultivation now. I have my own work, here, in the immediacy, that however imperfect is the work we have been given to do.
I stretch limbs expectant in the smallness of my space, take stock of the swords that clatter in the corridors of my heart. This is the expectant season. The barren days turn toward springtime.
Find me not with swords in the season of planting, but with the tools of the field laborer.