Day 13: Stumped by a Stump

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of power
the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD—
and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.

-Isaiah 11:1-3

Sometimes, I wonder what is even the point of it all. Sometimes is today. I am in a sour mood as I am sick, away from home, and irrationally worried about my underdog teams losing in the quarterfinals ( as much as you can consider the usual stacked powers underdogs). I’m exhausted and unable to see the people I came to see, and on top of that, I’ve submitted my moods to what happens in 90 minutes between men I don’t know from countries I’ve never lived in.

I am not in the mood for Advent hope. Which is perhaps the best pathway into Advent hope: hope against hope. A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse. It is December and I live in Michigan, so I’ve forgotten what a shoot even looks like. I am stumped by this new vision of the stump.

In 2018, the World Cup led me to a new group of soccer players and I began to play regularly for the first time in more than a decade. That shift led me to the theological conviction that the most beautiful form of the beautiful games is what exists on unmarked fields among neighborhood players. We praise the elite players and admire their skills, but what they do is the airbrushed version of what belongs to the ordinary and the marginalized.

A shoot will come up from the stump. The thing I am waiting for will not meet me on Dec. 18 at 10:00am Eastern. I will catch a tiny glimpse of it when I return home to my familiar field and our last pick up games of the year on a near-frozen field. But that is not it, either. The hope I am seeking is a tiny shoot, is just beginning to grow in my life in ways that will terrify and save me. Because salvation is terrifying.

The frustrating thing about hope is that it doesn’t leave a lot of room for wallowing. I’d like to be sick and wallow and sulk. But the beautiful game is about to begin–somewhere, not yet, but eventually. I am committed to a God who is working all things for good and so, begrudgingly, I hope.

A shoot comes forth from regular, ordinary dirt.

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