Mike’s note: What follows is an Advent reflection from my brilliant and soulful wife, Jasmin – part of our Make Advent Great Again lineup.
Yet no matter how deeply I go down into myself, my God is dark, and like a webbing made of a hundred roots that drink in silence.
–Rainer Maria Rilke
In this season, I drink in silence whenever I have the opportunity to engage it, whenever I become aware that I need it. No matter how hard I try each year to create space around the holidays, to be less busy, to say no to overload, I find myself craving even more simplicity, more presence offered and received. In the past week I arrived an entire day early to not one, but two different appointments and had to ruefully smile at myself for allowing my calendar descend into chaos. And in those moments, after something has fallen through the cracks, I take a breath and let the silence do its work. It’s interesting what happens then: sometimes grief’s sinewy fingers tighten around my throat; sometimes my thoughts continue to race and that spot just between my eyebrows feels achy and tight; sometimes love warms my belly and bleeds into my fingertips; sometimes joy feels like a sunrise in my chest.
There are not many icons that speak to me, but the Black Madonna arrests me every time I catch an image of her. She reminds me that birthing the Christ – that the incarnation of hope, revolution, freedom, and truth – is an embodied process that begins with me. She tells me that my dark skin and woman’s body has a place in this process. Even though I can be relegated to the margins, this birth – with all the agony, joy, mess and radiance – belongs to me, too.
Me too. This recently-popularized cue informed us all that a campaign of empathy and connection can create the beginnings of powerful shifts in a culture deeply entrenched in patriarchy. There was a long waiting for such a time as this, and there is still more waiting in the darkness to be done. But I love they way Sikh filmmaker and activist Valarie Kaur chooses to describe it: “What if this is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb?”
Or, put another way: Many of us know that sleeping in an environment as close to total darkness as we can get is the most nurturing sleep we can have. Our nervous systems need darkness to activate the healing and quieting responses that are available to us. Our bodies show us that creation and healing both begin in darkness.
We are not meant, of course, to continually dwell in silence and darkness. But integrating them into the center of our being is one of the ways to access the full breadth of our humanity and our divinity. So often in my own life, silence precedes my ability to give voice to some aspect of my story, and darkness precedes a morning where I am able to begin again because I’ve been renewed. In this process we experience freedom, and because our liberation is bound in the liberation of others, we can participate in the work of dismantling systems that thrive on suppression and oppression. Mary our mother and Christ our brother; we’re participating in the family’s work, rooted in mercy and restorative justice, grace and truth.
As Advent draws to a close and Christmas dawns, let the darkness finish its work, and the birthing begin.
Jasmin Pittman Morrell is a writer and collaborating editor for The Porch: a slow conversation about beautiful and difficult things. She is also the producer of the Movies and Meaning Experience, a festival and conference held in Asheville, NC.
Jasmin lives in Asheville with her husband, Mike, and their two daughters.