By Eun Joo Angela Ryo
I remember the first time I was left home alone for more than a few minutes. I was ten. It was a little after five on a chilly autumn evening, and my parents had not yet returned home from work. My four older sisters were determined to go to the nearby park to shoot some hoops and asked me to come along. I don’t remember why I had declined to go with them, but with one quick thud of the front door, they were gone, and I was alone. Darkness quickly seeped through the window, covered the couch where I was sitting, and threatened to devour me whole. Before they left, my sisters had dared me to remain in the dark until they came back. Up for the challenge, I sat there listening to the ticking of the clock that was as loud as a gong, staring at menacing shadows that seemed as real as my sweaty palms. I was paralyzed by unreasonable and uncontainable fear beating through my chest as the beads of cold sweat dripped down my forehead. I desperately hoped and prayed for the door to fly open and for my sisters to march in — that is, before I turned the door into a black hole that was about to suck the last strand of sanity out of me! At the height of my confusion caused by irrational fear and paranoia, something better than my sisters happened — the front door flung open and my parents stepped in. They turned on the light switch and asked me what I was doing in the dark. I don’t remember my parents looking as beautiful as they did that night. That was all that was needed to bring me back to the reality of a safe warm house where I had always been.
Reflecting on this year’s Advent took me back to my frightened ten-year-old self, shivering in the dark as I let my imagination run wild. The world these days sure feels pretty dark. And as much as I want to say it’s all in my imagination, sadly, it’s not. With war and rumors of war weighing heavily on our hearts, with actual and perceived acts of terrorism lurking at every corner, with unspeakable violence and news of police brutality threatening to swallow us up whole, with an ever increasing number of refugees seeking safety and shelter wherever they can, our eyes are intently fixed on Jesus to come and remind us that we are, we were, and we always will be in the loving embrace of our faithful Creator.
During this Advent, this season of “coming”, I want to hope, pray, and wait in the dark as I grope for justice and love in whatever way I can along with those who are in the margins, in the trenches, and also in the dark. The advent of Jesus and breaking forth of the light signify that neither my fear nor the fearmongering of the powerful has gotten the better of us; there is hope for us because God is not done with us yet. The hope of Advent will carry us through until God speaks the last word. And knowing that the last word will be love gives me great peace and joy. I don’t know how and I don’t know when, but I hope in the promise of that love even as I continue to stumble in the dark, for as Martin Luther Jr. had once said, “Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”
Eun Joo Angela Ryo immigrated to America from Korea when she was nine. Having graduated with an MDiv from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, she was ordained as a Teacher Elder in the PCUSA this past July and started serving in her first call at The First Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor as a Resident Minister.