He threw back his head and the surge of laughter came peeling out in the rollicking fashion I’ve grown accustomed to. He clearly saw something as hilarious. I’m going to call you “Cinder-Mama instead of Cinderella!” The twinkling joy in his eyes halted the to-do list that had been running wildly through my head the whole week. This is the child who has often referred to me as Cinderella, doling out detailed compliments as I walk out the door on date nights. In paradox, I had to admit my cinder-maid weariness, and take stock of the bleach that had somehow made its way in streaks across the front of my shirt.
I had been sick for the whole week prior, and my carefully laid Advent timeline had run amok. Now that I was up and running, it was time to make haste! Furthermore, with the near approach of Christmas, I’d taken the “prepare him room” concept seriously. Maybe so seriously and in such a tangible way that my six-year-old couldn’t help noticing the striking fairy-tale parallel. In full disclosure, I was not being oppressed by evil step-relatives. Admittedly, it was only I who had applied the concept to housecleaning. I had pulled everything out of closets, purged for Goodwill donations, and dusted crevices for several days in mad preparation for our oldest child’s return home from college. In addition, I was still needing to find some gifts all the while attending to the constant rhythm of our household. Alas, I had grown tired and felt weary and less than beautiful.
I stood in the kitchen feeling empty, even isolated somehow by the daily demands wearing on me relentlessly right in the middle of Advent. On the cusp of Gaudete Sunday, I knew that my calling as a Catholic mom was to exude authentic joy and live the poignant life of high adventure found in Christological motherhood. Yet there I was struggling with a nagging sense of growing anger and irritation directed at those closest to me. Although my family is not out to oppress me, I let my untimely sickness and their persistent needs utterly obscure the path of joy. When I do not pay close attention to the deep access I have in Christ, so acute is the descending drift of my heart that the metaphor of dust and bleach obscuring the beauty of my authentic joy can be the alarming realization of my need.
When my joy has drifted into dysfunction, I need to drop everything (a surrender right in my kitchen) and let the undeserved love of the savior sweep me off my feet. Isn’t this the message of Advent? He has come riding on a horse, looking for me in the forests of my heart. He has chosen me for joy in him. He is not just a Christmas concept, or a legendary fairy-tale. He really came. He really is coming this Advent to redeem more of my heart for eternity. He is my prince of peace who slows me down, restores my dignity and reminds me of the beauty he is forming in me right now through all my mundane messes. He has come from the Kingdom of Heaven to transform my heart today – to uncover my belovedness. When I receive this exchange – my emptiness for his presence – I am restored to likeness in him. I am crowned with grace, clothed in righteousness, and showered with loving-kindness; this is a joy that is not of this world.
So, this Cinder-Mama, when filled with the presence of Jesus, can then turn to the child in genuine affection and respond with a depth of mirth and levity. There is no greater joy than living in Christ. Prepare him room with me and make space for the exchange of the person of Jesus. Give him your empty, weary places and let him take residence and transform your heart for the kingdom!