The Gift of a Phantom Itch

Christmas sends me over the edge, and I let it.  

At the beginning of Advent  I wrote about the twin seasons of Advent and Christmas and how I was going to cheerfully navigate them, aware of their differences, their distinct gifts for us.  I know that “Yes, I’m called — as a Christian — to contemplate Christ’s arrival (as baby long ago, as redeemer in the future, and as co-participant in His kingdom now.”  And I know that I’m invited into the American craze-fest of Christmas in ways that can be fun and through traditions that I can often enjoy.

But stop the world.  I want to get off.  Christmas trumps Advent in decibels, emphasis, urgency.  And I want to run from it, hide or scream.  I have much more success the rest of the year remembering that Christ is coming (and here).  Christmas season makes me disbelieve it.

So last night when I went to bed plenty early to plan to get up at 5:45, I said a prayer when I set my alarm, asking God to rouse me sufficiently enough that “Snooze” would not call my name.  

Well at 2:45 I woke up.  And by 3:40 I gave up — and got up.  Because as sometimes happens to folks who have a bit of scar tissue from surgeries, I was itching like crazy in areas where my nerve endings are gone.  Thus scratching the itch does nothing.  The itch is a phantom annoyance that can’t be relieved.  

And I took it as the answer to my prayer for early wakefulness.  Earlier than I had hoped or planned.  But it’s proven to be a gift nonetheless.  Dark and still hours of contemplative time in prayer and worship and Scripture-reading.  

Which has led me to reflect on the gift of physical, bodily metaphors for spiritual realities — there are itches that can’t be relieved with a quick swipe of the fingernail.  There are depths of hunger and thirst that are entirely spiritual.  

And Scripture tells us that the hungry and thirsty WILL be filled.  And I was.  And I am.

And I’m grateful for the itching.  And it’s lessening as morning dawns.

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~ by Cary on December 19, 2008.

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