The central figure of the Advent story is John the Baptist and his voice has echoed down through the ages with its message of, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, level the mountains, fill in the valleys, make a straight highway for our God’. This was a practice in ancient times when in preparation for a royal visit to a city, years of backbreaking work would take place beforehand to make a grand entrance, like a modern day highway, a road that was fit for royalty. Its not much different today where the best time to get something done with the roads is prior to the visit of someone ‘official’.
Dublin is exactly exactly the same distance from Wexford as it always was yet its now less than half the journey. That’s simply because so much work and finance has gone into improvement over the years. Valleys have neen filled, hills have been levelled and crooked ways made straight to provide a topclass highway.
At another level I was pondering how we might be John the Baptist in relation to our own lives? If Christmas is about new life and joy how can I improve the quality of my inner life and experience joy. If my inner life is at a low ebb and feels like hell then even though I travel somewhere exotic the reality is that I am still in an exotic hell. If my inner life is flowing then even a difficult situation can be quite bearable. The human mind is capable of making a hell of heaven or a heaven of hell. So how could I be John the Baptist to myself?
Firstly, could be to try and be less hard on myself and practice self forgiveness. We tend to be far more critical of ourselves than anyone else might ever be. Even though we believe in Gods mercy we can still be quite unmerciful towards ourselves. Its when we lack self-compassion that we can be quite harsh and judgmental towards others as well . As we look back on our lives, with the benefit of hindsight, we see how certain things didn’t work out and think we should have done them differently. Then we can give in to regrets and beat up on ourselves. The reality is that we most likely wouldn’t act any different now if given the limited understanding we had at that time. As a general rule when we look back on the past with the light we have in the present we tend to be quite critical and that’s where we all have a need to practice self compassion. Holding onto guilt and regrets keeps us locked in the past and could be a disguised form of selfishness in that it deprives others of the best of who we are.
Then most of us go through dark periods either at certain times of the year as in SAD Syndrome or at stages in our lives. In the times of darkness we see the reality of our lives much more clearly than we ever will when in top form and the light is shining brightly.The times of darkness can also be times of great growth provided we make the adjustments that our struggle is inviting us to make.
For example: We could be over investing time and energy in what we do while another area of our life is suffering or being neglected. Its not easy to live a balanced life.
In our relationships we could be hurting the most those we love the most and not be prepared to look at why that might be happening. Our childhood foundations and where we have come from often need to be taken into consideration before we can stop our past undermining our present and sabatoging our future. In preparing a roadway proper foundations are of vital importance.
In terms of life in general we might be letting things get to us in a way that is not healthy or good for us. Its nor wise to let anyone else have too much power over us or to unduly cause us upset. If someone is controlling me it also means that I must be subservient. When this happens and we lose our peace it usually points to our self-esteem being too low. We all have weaknesses in our armour that may only reveal themselves when under stress. Creating proper boundaries is an essential part of laying a motorway and if you think of a motorway that’s about to be built its the yellow ribbons that mark the boundaries.
In terms of preparing the way of the Lord creating good boundaries for ourselves and affording them to others is a very useful starting point.