I love a Gershwin tune, and I must confess that I seldom use the word embrace unless I’m belting out, “Embrace me, my sweet embraceable you.” Hug, hold, cuddle–almost never embrace. So today my task is to write about a word that is scarcely in my vocabulary. However, this unexpected meditation has proved serendipitous and forced me to realize that like the Advent word of the day, the very things I need to embrace are the new and uncomfortable ones. I suspect there are many other who could benefit from my ruminations.
Embrace change. I was rattled for days when the dimensions of our new microwave forced us to rearrange the small appliances in our kitchen, and I got a case of the vapors when my husband suggested that I move my desk into an adjoining room. I realize that I am missing the most interesting parts of life when I insist on the same brand of mayonnaise, the same vacation destinations, the same ways of teaching English composition. Nor does the glaring truth escape me that the temptation to stay the same leads to to intellectual, emotional, and spiritual stagnation. And torpor leads to decay.
Embrace challenges. I like to think that I am motivated by a good challenge. And I do love doing the Sunday crossword in pen, reading Ulysses, and learning a new language. It’s no secret to me that half the reason I signed up for #AdventWord was the challenge of getting up at 5:30 and writing a few hundred words every morning before leaving for work. However, I am more reluctant to accept challenges in realms where I am not already comfortable. I have not been able to learn PhotoShop, make pasties, or parallel park because my first efforts ended when someone laughed at me. Again, I know that I am forcing myself into an increasingly stultifying range of activities because I accept only those challenges I already know I can master–a contradiction in terms, to be sure.
Embrace obstacles. I have always been good at things–the things I chose to do, of course–so I have encountered few obstacles. Just like change and challenge, obstacles have something to teach me. Learning to climb over or dig under or fall down and get back up again can not only make me stronger. It can also help me to be more understanding of those for whom overcoming obstacles of one kind or another is simply a part of daily life.
Embrace joy. This may be the most difficult piece of advice I dispense today. Being depressed and angry always provides something to talk about. Happy families are all alike. Dolor is so interesting! But I believe it is time to try joy. We can find it everywhere during this season of Advent–in the smiles of children on the lap of Santa Claus, in the generosity of those who carefully select gifts for a family on the angel tree, in the haunting hymns that tell us to prepare, for Jesus is coming. When and wherever we find the joy, we must embrace it, for only then can we share it. And only then can we say with confidence that the season of preparation is over and lift our voices and sing when the trumpets ring out their message of Christmas Eve: “Joy to the world; the Lord is come!”