“For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.”
~Elizabeth in Luke 1:44
Years ago, when I was pregnant with my first child, I was asked to be present at the hospital with a family who would be disconnecting their loved one from life support. This is the holy, sacred, and gut-wrenching accompaniment that I have, at times, been privileged to do in this world. I did not know the family, but was able to offer prayers and a steady, loving presence in the room - as final decisions were clarified beyond doubt - as goodbyes were said - as machines were turned off. As we waited for a heart to stop beating, as we waited for a life to end as we know it and begin in Mystery beyond what we can imagine, I remember standing to the side while loved ones hovered around the hospital bed. I prayed silently, opening myself to soak up as much grief as I could. Then, out of nowhere, I felt a flutter in my stomach. (What?!) As if to confirm, it happened again. It was the first time I had ever felt the baby in my womb “kick”. It was stunning and powerful. Even in the moment, I was in awe of life making itself known in the midst of death. And I was completely aware that I could hold both the grief this family was experiencing as well as the delight of experiencing the burgeoning life that was coming forth in me.
As I write this story, it is the season of Advent. I am holding the Biblical story of Mary and Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56) close in this season and paying attention to the themes that emerge from it. One theme that has popped out at me is that of delighting. The baby Elizabeth is carrying leaps for joy when she hears Mary’s greeting. The delight is palpable here, but let us also remember the sure uncertainty that must have also been present for Elizabeth. Her husband had gone mute. She would be giving birth at an Advanced Maternal Age. Political and social upheaval was prevalent. Mary had her own set of uncertainties, being young, unmarried, and poor. Yet, in the midst of all of it, we sense the delighting in this Gospel story.
2020 has not been a year for the faint of heart. Our worldwide community has been challenged in ways no one has ever experienced before. And that is on top of the many other challenges that are just a natural part of our human lives. Yet, delight has been present, too. How can we be on the look-out for delight – even in the midst of sadness, grief, injustice, ugliness, darkness, and whatever other difficult realities our lives are presenting to us in any given moment? This question is your invitation. May your exploration help you experience the act of delighting in even the most unexpected of places in this season and beyond.
DanaLee Simon is a Pastor and Spiritual Director, living in Salt Lake City, UT. When she’s not hiking in the mountains or playing with her two little boys, she meets with people in one on one spiritual direction, leads retreats (virtually, these days), and teaches classes on self-compassion and group spiritual direction. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.