Ruthie Johnson and I met through a newly founded writer’s group. Though I’ve never met her in real life, I’ve been enjoying her wit, wisdom, and words so much that I couldn’t wait to invite her into this project.
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Mary and Elizabeth, You and Me
by Ruthie Johnson
The papers stacked high on my dresser. I was putting off the phone calls I needed to make to follow up on my interviews. The truth is I was weary of calling, taking initiatives for jobs I knew I wouldn’t get. I was nearing the sixth month of my unemployment and it felt as dreary as ever.
Holiday seasons are not for hiring. I knew this. With fiscal years coming to a close and oddly spaced work weeks, interviews were few and far between. But I knew I needed to do my part. At least that’s what I told myself.
I still need to fill out the applications, send the follow up emails and thank you cards. What surprised me was how much my search for a concrete thing (a job) tapped into all the things that were so mushy in my heart and mind.
How did waiting for a job suddenly become a conversation about my future, my hopes and my expectations? Somewhere in the shuffling of references and online application I found myself in a conversation with God about trust and goodness rather than a paycheck. I’d rather focus on the paperwork.
Thankfully I had a good friend, Khristi, who kept me in check. Always a text or call away, she would encourage me. She let me be frustrated when I needed to be, disappointed and overwhelmed. She would also remind me of the goodness going on– the stuff in the background that I couldn’t see. She would call out the workings of God in a space where I was too close to see it. She held hope for me.
Advent is a season that throws us into hope at a time where emotions run rampant. While the holidays are a great time for family and celebration, sometimes you can’t go home. Sometimes family is hard, broken and fragile. Holidays can be reminders of pain and separation. These are also days of loneliness and a darkness for many that desperately need the truth of advent.
What does it meant to hope in the unknown?
Sometimes the things we wait for are a bit more tangible and finite– weddings, home sales, a job, a graduation. Other times what we wait for has a bit more mystery. The intangible. They are the hopes and dreams left unfulfilled, emotions that need healing, relationships we want to ease out of a precarious tension. They are the parts of us that are left wondering in the dark.
It’s easy to look at the stories of Mary and Elizabeth and point to the concrete expectancy. The babies growing in their tummies, each with promised futures that are equal parts mystic and majestic.
But when I read their story I’m reminded of the power of sharing in each others hopes, the beauty that is found in waiting together. I can imagine Mary, young, nervous, unsure going to visit her cousin in hopes of a break from being the in the eye of the community. She needed some space from the rumors, from the confusion. She needed a space to be whole and safe, seen and known. She needed someone who could listen to her and believe her doubts, fears, excitements and hopes the same way my friend did for me.
Both Elizabeth and Mary were waiting for God to move, to trust what they knew in their souls would remain true after the babies, after the excitement, when the confusion had settled a little. Their friendship is a beautiful reminder of a truth we so often need: Hope is easier in community.
Mary and Elizabeth sat together in the silence of waiting, knowing that their experiences might never be understood by others, but with a patient hopefulness nevertheless. In this season of Advent, when the waiting is as dark and cold as the night, remember that you do not hope alone.
The power of waiting together points us to a collective hope–knowing that our desires, our stories, our victories and hurts are woven into a bigger story than we can imagine.
May this Advent be a time of learning to hope together. May it be a reminder of the strength of community and the power of fellowship in the midst of our darkest moments. May it point to the embodiment of the Messiah, the truth that broke the ultimate silence: Jesus is here, God with us and we are not alone.
What are the hopes you carry that feel far away? Who can you share them with? Where do you see yourself in the story of Mary and Elizabeth?
Ruthie Johnson works in Affordable Housing and has spent time working in Higher Education & Community Organizing. In her spare times she writes and can be found at The Mudroom and She Loves, and occasionally on her own blog, A Quiet Strength.