I called my dad on Tuesday night. On the surface, this was an unexceptional occurrence. I call my dad to find out what time family dinner will begin or to ask what he thinks my grandmother might want for her birthday. But these conversations all center on logistics. Who, when, where, what. Just the details.
Tuesday night was different because I dared to get personal. I knew that Sunday had been my father’s “last supper,” his term for his last meal before he begins a diet. I also had heard from my mother that the first two days of the diet had been hard on him. He was struggling emotionally because he is used to using food to deal with his emotions. On his new diet, where he has to eat the food that is sent to him by the program he is enrolled in, he could no longer do that. I knew exactly how he felt because my relationship with food is so similar to his. So I called him up and told him that I was proud of him for taking these steps to get healthy and that I empathized with how difficult this was for him. I also shared a little of my own Advent journey, which I blogged about a few weeks back, of how I am working to trust in God and not in food.
Again, that I would call my dad to empathize with a challenge he is facing is seemingly not noteworthy. But this was the first conversation we had had like this in about five years. Five years ago my father and I had a conversation that went badly. Actually, that is an understatement. It was worst conversation I have ever had. The details are not important, but crucially, I left the conversation unsure if I could ever open myself emotionally to my father or be there for him emotionally again. There was so much hurt in that conversation five years ago that I basically shut down in our relationship.
I did not think that much about calling my father on Tuesday evening until I read the Gospel story for this Sunday (Luke 1:26-38). In it, the angel appears to the stunned Mary, telling her that she will conceive and give birth to a son, not just any son, but one who will be called Son of God. We do not hear Mary speak of her own emotions, but we can sense her confusion in her question, “How can this be?” and see her fear mirrored in the angel’s “Do not fear, Mary.” Yet, trusting in God, empowered by the Holy Spirit, Mary says yes to the angel’s confusing and terrifying proposition. She recognizes that this is the way that she will serve God, through the bearing and raising of God’s child.
Mary’s “yes” to the angel shed new light on my phone call to my father. Perhaps God is asking me to say yes to something that has previously terrified me this Advent. Perhaps this Advent is the time to begin renewing my relationship with my father, even though this process may not be easy and may lead to more pain. Perhaps it is time to trust God, to be empowered by the Spirit, and to recognize that one small way I can serve God is to mend the relationships in my life that need mending.
In this Advent season, what might God be asking of you? To what does God want you to say “yes”?