The family story goes like this: I had a teddy bear that my brother threw in the mud. For some reason (and to this day I’m not sure what that is), it was impossible to simply throw it in the wash; it was beyond repair. My parents wanted to offer some kind of replacement, so I got a wise-looking stuffed mouse, which I proceeded to name “bear eyes.” In whatever way my two-year-old mind could process, I knew that this mouse, no matter how lovely, would never replace the bear I had lost. She might be a mouse, but there was clearly bear in her eyes.
Every holiday season when I see what’s going on around me—exhaustion, despair, busy-ness, greed, and worry—I wish again for the ability to simply rename them. To take all that turmoil and sadness and call them “Advent peace.” And find that somehow the words alone could make it true.
Naming something so clearly in opposition to reality is the province of children, with endless circular arguments of “it is too” and “it is not.” But the ability to remember is the true gift of childhood. To know that no matter how many things the world takes away, no matter how deep the losses, there will always be the memory of peace, joy, wholeness, the certainty of being loved beyond what we imagine. And those memories are continually calling us back home, to eyes that we’ve definitely seen before and never forgot how to love.