December 4, 2023


   “My darling, every time I have ever been away from you, I’ve been thrilled when I returned to discover just how wonderful you are. While I’m away, I try to convince myself that you are not, could not be, as sweet and beautiful as I remember. But when I see you, I fall in love with you all over again.” (From a letter written to Rosalyn Carter by President Jimmy Carter in 1948)

I didn’t know that former First Lady Rosalyn Carter had passed from earth’s grip to Heaven’s grasp until the quote above set my phone abuzz. A quick glance at the tender words shared by Rosalyn’s daughter Amy at her funeral prompted me to pause and pursue what lay beneath the news blurb and delve into the sweetness of the story.

A well uncapped, its contents rising until pools formed and tears fell. My first thoughts were of a day I stood in a much smaller venue with a much smaller crowd, reading from worn parchment with fading script; excerpts from letters my grandparents wrote to each other. That memory, though, would most often bring a smile and a sigh. Something more was at work in these unbeckoned tears. Understanding quickly apprehended me. We were at the apex of Advent, and my ache had been unleashed.

My marrow-deep need had swum to the surface. Return. To wonder.

Stretches away from wonder leave us with weariness we can’t define, that can’t be explained away. We may not try to convince ourselves that He is not as sweet and beautiful as we recall, but wars and rifts, agendas and rumors, do their own job; replacing our remembrance with a rattle that rubs at what is real and true within us.

Advent comes as darkness yet runs over, but His light never runs out.

Ache comes as herald, declaring that hush can overcome hustle. Struggle can surrender to stillness. An allowed ache yields us to yearn for Him; to long greatly until our greatest desire is for Him. Not just for Him to come, but to come however He must to invade our circumstances, opinions, obstacles and attitudes. It causes a wildness to wind through, so we not only ask for Him to come, but to stay.

Lament is another expression of ache. An extension of it. It leads us to linger, lament does, in the authenticity of how it feels to have no escape plan or alternate route. Words run wild here but they are real, true. Where else would we go, but to the One who entrusted His very heart to us? Lament makes us brave. Brave enough to meet joy, collide with it, until we become the most wondrous expression of it.

The world may seem dressed in pitch black, but it’s only a masquerade. Ailing bodies, broken families, failing hearts and warring factions all have the same need. Jesus. We need only say, “Let there be Light,” and He is here, there, everywhere that needs darkness to be burnished.

Ache is meant to awaken us, arouse in us things steeped in always and not yet. It moves us from how long to how often, prompting us to tend each hour so every minute is a gift opened through the simplicity of being present. With Him. There He is again, revealing the meaning in everything.

A Hebrew word for ache is tzarah, which is rooted in tzar, meaning  “narrow.” The narrow passage of ache helps us search for the meaning and the good that is concealed inside all things.

A variation of tzarah is tzohar –  a window. Walls are simply in the wait for windows so we have a contrasting view. These achey openings help us peek into the experience of another, aid us on peering into how another feels instead of what they did. The Hebrew word for feeling is regesh. With letters rearranged, the word becomes gesher, a word for bridge.

Ache allows us to connect with ourselves and others in the most profound ways and to cry out for each other.

Our ache might reveal we are limping towards our very own lives. It reveals our wrestle, makes space for it. There is bounty and beauty in that sacred space. For the word ptil means wrestle and wick. When we grapple, we may just ignite the wick of our soul, the first torch of Advent. And that lavish light might just lead us to the place where we fall in LOVE all over again.