One of the fundamental moves that all roller derby skaters learn is the “transition.” When you transition, you turn your body around in place while still skating in the same direction. So for example, if you are skating forward, you spin around and begin skating backwards, or vice versa. It is a helpful move because it allows you to be able to see what is going on behind you on the track, support other players from the front, or take a hit from the front rather than in the back.
It is also the move that caused my first major injury in roller derby. I was trying to perform this move and manage to spin by body around but my feet didn’t change direction. That meant my foot was turned about 90 degrees to the side and flipped over, causing me to break both the bones in my lower leg and one bone in my ankle. This was the semi-infamous injury that had me going through the entire Advent and Christmas season in crutches lo those many years ago.
After my recovery, I wanted to make sure that never happened again, and so I practiced and practiced that move until I could literally transition constantly as I skated around the track, spinning like a top. Reflecting on that image, I realized that it was a lot like life. We are constantly transitioning from one thing to another: childhood to adulthood, adulthood to even older adulthood, being alone to being in families to being alone again, etc. We change jobs, homes, all sorts of things, all the time.
Advent itself is, in its nature, a transitional time. The world was moving from one era in history to another, and the change would be both momentous and not what they expected. That capacity for people of faith to navigate that transition is integral to the Advent and Christmas story, and the story of Christ as a whole.
Which is why I find it so interesting that when we talk about our faith and our spiritual life, we often approach it from a position of desiring homeostasis. We sometimes say we want to have unshakable, unmovable faith. We want to believe something and stick with it through thick and thin. We talk from a meditative place about stillness, and groundedness. But that places the imagery of our spiritual life in opposition to the quality of our, well, regular life. What we need is a faith that is dynamic, mobile, and able to accompany us on the many transitions that we will be going through. It should be a companion, an advocate, not an obstacle.
Advent means, in the original Latin, “going towards.” We are always going towards something: in our lives, in our understanding, and as part of the Kingdom of God. That momentum may be unexpected or different from what we imagine, but it is what makes our faith the Gospel that it is.
Yours in Christ,