Wednesday, December 3, 2014

An Advent to Remember

This year has been...whew. I mean for us, personally, it's been filled with ups and downs, suffering and joy, but nothing major as far as hard things go. But for this weary world of ours, I just feel such a heaviness. It seems like every time I open Facebook it's a constant stream of tragedy, and each news cycle brings with it fresh anxiety and mounting dread.

For the past four years my job as editor of on online news aggregator meant that I spent hours each day coming the www for stories touching on life issues and bioethics. It was, I'd estimate, 90% negative. Taking in that kind of horror daily wears on a person. And while I'm thrilled to share with you guys that I'm stepping into an exciting new role (details to come soon. Promise.) I'm definitely still feeling the weight of all the awfulness I've waded through, especially this last year.

And I realized something else today, too; I've gotten pretty good (scary good, really) at forgetting something terrible 14.5 seconds after I've clicked the link/read the story/sent the donation. It's almost a sort of disassociation that I've developed, probably to protect my finite human brain (and heart) from the infinite stream of tragedy and horror that filters in every second of every day via the airwaves. And this without even having cable.

I skimmed past a link on somebody else's page yesterday and saw a thread of discussion still active from late October - October! - about Britanny Maynard and suddenly my mind and my heart were freshly jolted back to the horror of waking up on the feast of All Saints to discover that she had, in fact, taken her own life.

I was so shaken by that story. And then...I moved on. Ebola, Ferguson, Bill Cosby, Syria, Ukraine, babies in sewer pipes and young fathers murdered in cold blood didn't leave me with the mental or emotional stamina to keep processing her death. Or even to remember it 5 days after it happened.

I don't want my use of technology to strip me of my humanity.

And I don't want to overload my brain with so much horror that I lose the capacity to feel, deeply, the sting of loss, an ache at acts of evil, or real sympathy in the face of suffering.

I was thinking that in addition to the mild smattering of efforts we're making as a family to consecrate Advent as a time of waiting in joyful hope, I could also bring my heart to bear on those stories from this past year that will give our weary world the most cause to rejoice when He comes.

For the next 3 weeks, I'm going to try to recollect one story each day from the past year that broke my heart, and offer the little sufferings and inconveniences of that day for those still hurting in connection with those stories, if that makes sense. So for Robin Williams' family. For the young wife and mother whose husband is gone. For a city burning and roiling in turmoil. For a mama whose girl's days on earth are numbered.

Surely I can do this small thing in an effort to bring some meaning to all the suffering we've witnessed this past year, and to hold these families and individuals up in prayer as we prepare for the Baby who will save us from ourselves.

If you want to join me, my plan is to simply scroll through my Facebook page and my browser history each morning and select a story, a situation, a loss...and then to make that the focus of the day. I'm confidant - sadly - that I'll have no trouble filling up the next 21 days or so.

This isn't meant to be depressing, but redeeming. I really feel like I've lost something in my rabid consumption of news and media, and I'm hoping it isn't an irrevocable loss.

May your Advent season be filled with joy, anticipation, and deep empathy for those who are most in need of Bethlehem this year.


  1. I love that idea, and I think it sounds very redeeming. I think one of the reasons that these stories are so dehumanizing is that they are read and then forgotten, while the people that are suffering through them are still dealing with hurt that feels so fresh while the world has moved on to the next tragedy/outrage, etc.

  2. What a beautiful idea. I am struggling this Advent - feels like I've been waiting for the Joy for a long time now and even though Christmas is near, I fear that I will still be searching long after we celebrate.

  3. What a great idea, Jenny. Thanks for sharing it with us. I'll be joining you in the effort.

  4. I believe your sensitivity isn't irrevocably lost. Sometimes we do get numb, but your heart's desire to bring it back is a sure sign it's still there. Uniting my sufferings this Advent.

  5. Jenny - this brings to mind a verse that I think of when the worries of this world become too much to bear. In John 16: 33 Jesus says, "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."

  6. Great idea. I've been playing around with the idea of social media and tragedy for the last week. I'm called to make a movement I can tell, but not sure what it is yet...


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