One of my closest friends is about to get married, and she called us, her entourage, at their house one weekend so we can practice the short performance they planned for the reception. I could have opted out, but I didn’t have anything to do, and besides, she gets married only once (and she’s the first to get married in our group). So I went.
By the time evening rolled around, I had laughed so much at their friends, people I met (and danced with) just a few hours ago. I was perfectly content listening to them talk, even if I had no idea what they were talking about and who these people were. It was such a fascinating conversation to listen to, I said several times, and to that they all laughed and made jokes and tried to ask stuff about me so I can be a part of the conversation.
I barely knew these people, but they exuded so much warmth that it almost felt like I wasn’t different from them. Like I know them just as well as my friend did. They made me laugh, they tried to set me up with someone (that my friend totally disagreed with), and they started talking about having a karaoke session with me. I barely knew them, but that evening, it felt like I did.
It feels like some sort of grace, to be around people like these whose souls just glow so bright that they managed to light mine up. We may not see each other again after the wedding. Or maybe I’d end up being friends with them. I don’t know. And I don’t really mind not knowing. It was enough for me then, and enough for me now that I saw them and knew them and heard them. I got home that night, pondering all this, and carefully cupping the light they left with me, like how you’d protect a candle’s light from the wind. It’s like the light was a little piece of me that I was looking for, and it showed me the things I’ve been missing for a while. It’s not completely bright yet, but it was light. Right now, it’s enough.
* * *
I’ve been thinking about people recently. Or, to be more accurate, I’ve been thinking about humans, and humanity and the things that make us what we are. I suppose it’s because the year is ending, so I get all introspective and existential at some point.
I’ve also been thinking about the season of Advent, and how this year feels so different from last. Not that I was expecting it to be the same, except maybe last year was a little bit busier, and a little bit crazier, except this Advent is just a little less crazy but still that, in a different way.
But I’ve been thinking about humans, and Advent, and how this entire season is described as waiting. Mostly, I found myself thinking of how Advent preludes Christmas, which is when God came down to the world and became one of us. He became human, to be with us. Emmanuel. God is with us. I’ve glossed over this fact over and over in the past year, but now it seems like an important thing that I’m trying to get a grasp of.
A few weeks ago, I wasn’t feeling my best. I called it a storm brewing inside me because it felt like it, and this storm kind of wrecked havoc in my heart later on, in ways I didn’t think it would do, in ways I didn’t think it would happen. And as this storm brewed and hit and left, I kept on going back to what my friend said when I talked to her because I was just so, so tired:
I was running an errand when I read that, and I remember having to rush to the restroom when I read that because the tears just started to come. It was like the words released the waterworks and all I wanted to do then was cry and thank her for throwing me this piece of truth. That it’s okay for me to feel the way I feel, to be so tired and sad and angry and to cry, because I’m human.
I’m weak. I’m flawed. I get angry, I get sad. I cry, and I get tired. I get happy with the smallest things, and I get the happiest when I make other people happy. I lash out and fight, and I notice the smallest things even when I shouldn’t, and I think a thousand miles an hour, too much for my own good. I try to stop that, and sometimes I do it, but other times I don’t. I am all of this and more, but most of all, I am human.
I know this doesn’t excuse the times I act out of selfishness when I should know better. I don’t like using the excuse, “I’m only human” when I make mistakes because I believe in taking responsibility and all that shiz, but sometimes I think I forget to cut myself some slack. I don’t mind telling others — especially the ones closest to me — that it’s okay if they stumble because they are human, and it happens but I often forget to tell that to myself. That it is also just as okay if I stumble sometimes because I am human, too.
It’s funny how sometimes our humanity is the hardest thing to accept about ourselves. I guess it’s true that often the hardest person to forgive is yourself.
And all this time, while I sat and pondered on this fact that I have known all the time, I think of Advent again, and Christmas. How God sent Jesus to become human so He could be with us. How Jesus was born in a stable, laid on a manger, born and raised by human parents. I think a little more and imagine how Jesus must have grown up — how Mary must have held him as a baby and cleaned after him and fed him. How he must have tried to play with Joseph when he could run, and how he must have tripped and scraped his knee and maybe even cried as Mary treated the wound with some medicine that stung. I think of how Jesus helped with the chores at home, talked to other people and read and played and walked like everyone else he knew around him.
I remember wondering, after I read Anne Rice’s Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, if Jesus knew who he was and what he was supposed to do when he was younger. And if he knew, what would he have done? I’d like to believe that maybe Jesus didn’t really know about it until later. Yes, Jesus is sinless and he sought God’s will…but it didn’t mean he knew what to do exactly, and what would happen to him. Why would he even have that agony in the Gethsemane if he knew what he was going to go through, right? Perhaps at some point in his life, Jesus was just as lost, confused, sad, tired, angry and terrified as we were in our lives. That Jesus also got cheered up by the small things and did big things to show his love for the people he cared for.
If Jesus, who was just as divine as he is human, can fully embrace all of this craziness, then why can’t I do that, too?
* * *
So I think of my humanity, and these new people who filled me with light recently. I think of Advent and waiting and Christmas and Jesus. I think of how messy life is, how flawed and imperfect everything is. I think of all the big and small victories, the times I’ve tried my best to be brave, and all the mistakes I’ve made in the past year. I feel bad about them, and I am really, truly sorry for not being a better person when I know that I can be one.
Then I gather them all up, and offer them to Jesus, like how the wise men came and offered what they had to the newborn baby on that first Christmas. I know what I have is not much, and it’s probably a really terrible offering. But I’d like to believe that when Jesus sees it, He smiles and tells me: “It’s okay. You’re human. I understand. I’ve been there, too.”