Holy interruptions help us find light in the darkness

2020 has been a challenging year for all of us. Between the pandemic, racial division and civil unrest and a divisive election season, all of us have probably aged several years in the last 12 months. I know the gray in my hair and beard seem to be more noticeable. The pandemic, in particular, has caused changes to almost every aspect of our lives. Even ordinary tasks like going to Mass or picking up groceries have added elements of difficulty and stress. It often feels like nothing is simple anymore.

One change for me this year has been working from home more frequently. I’ll be honest, when it first became clear that I would be working from home, I wasn’t sure that this was going to be possible. At the time, our family included my wife and me and our six children ranging in age from 18 months to 14. In April, we welcomed our 7th child to add a little more excitement, chaos and lots of joy to our lives, but to no one’s surprise, adding an infant didn’t make working from home any easier.

Despite the challenges, I have come to appreciate some of the unique realities of working from home, in particular the interruptions. Recently those interruptions have come in the form of our 2-year-old son, Tommy, who likes to walk into our room whether the door is open or closed. He usually walks over to me, sees me looking at my computer screen and says, “You working?” When I tell him “yes,” he will sometimes come over to see what’s on my screen. He has learned that sometimes I meet with people virtually, and I think he wants to say “Hi.” If I am not on a call, he’ll say, “You want to be done working and play with me?” It kills me to say no to him when he asks so sweetly. So sometimes I give in and spend a few minutes playing. But even when I do say no to him, I still appreciate these interruptions to my day.

So much of what we have experienced this year has been challenging, and it can be easy to get swept up in negativity. We even have a term to describe our overconsumption of bad news: “doomscrolling.” It would be easy to convince ourselves that the world is falling apart and resign ourselves to whatever the next tragedy will be. As the living justice advocate for the diocese, my role is to raise awareness about injustice and draw attention to people who are suffering in our world. This makes it particularly challenging not to feel overcome by the darkness of the world.

But Tommy’s interruptions, so lighthearted and full of joy, are a reminder to me that life goes on. He is not aware of the pandemic happening or any of the other challenges of this year. He just sees dad at home and hopes that I might want to build a tower with him or race his cars or even just hold him for a few minutes. Tommy’s interruptions remind me that I don’t have to let the doom and gloom take hold of my life; instead, I can choose to step back and appreciate the blessings of my life and find comfort and stability and joy in the simple encounters of family life.

As I reflect on the experience of this year and the Advent season, I am reminded of another interruption. Long ago, in a world that was just as broken, chaotic and stressful as the world we live in today, an innocent, joyful interruption took place: a child was born. In the beautiful imagery of John’s Gospel, this child is seen as bringing light into the darkness of the world: “What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:4-5).Through the Incarnation, God spoke to the human race a message of love. By his simple, humble presence in the world, God reminded us that he is here. He is working and, no matter how dark things may be, his light will always overcome the darkness.

This Advent, perhaps more than any other in our lives, I think God wants to remind us that he is still here and he’s not going anywhere. In the midst of the darkness around us, it may be difficult to see, but God is here. For me, I have found him in Tommy’s interruptions, when the light of his smile and joy of his heart break through the darkness that can consume me. And in those simple moments, I know that we are OK. Thank you, God, for interrupting my life and helping me remember that the darkness will never overcome the light!

Weiss serves as living justice advocate for the Diocese of Green Bay.

ADVENT, WEEK 1:

Finding hope in the wilderness, by Deacon Steve Meyer