this book. It's a love story between two teenagers who have cancer. The narrator, Hazel, is fairly certain she'll die in the near future. She meets a boy, Augustus, at a support group meeting. They fall in love, and John Green somehow writes their story in a way that makes you feel like you're right there, a teenager again, watching these lives unfold.
When I turned the last page, I just sat there on the couch, staring at the back cover. I wanted to stretch out that moment, to stay with these characters a bit and think about what had happened.
I realized: as much as this is a story about dying...and living...it's mostly a story about waiting (which makes it perfect for Advent). For one small example: it was weird for me to imagine what it would be like to wait for a boy to contact you when you don't know how many days you have left to live.
Without giving the story away (it's too good...you should read it), one of the most profound things the author explores is the idea of legacy: what we long for when we consider how (or if) people will remember us. Augustus longs to be bold and heroic, to make his days count for something public and significant. Whereas Hazel is more pragmatic about how cancer has made her world smaller-- her parents, one friend who tries to stay in touch and talk about normal things like shopping for shoes, Augustus--but she seems to have made peace that this is her life, and her role is to do the best she can within that. That would be her legacy, and that would be enough.
I've always been more of an Augustus than a Hazel. There's a line in Nichole Nordeman's song, Legacy, that gets me every time. She asks God, "Did I point to You enough to make a mark on things?"
How to measure such a question?
It makes me realize that much of the waiting I do is for opportunities: to point to God, to love someone or something in a way that makes a difference. And most of these moments aren't hugely heroic. They're small, and can fly by without me noticing if I don't pay attention.
Paying attention is just another word for waiting.
I tend to think of "waiting" as what we do before things get better. This book makes me think about all the waiting we do for the chance to be part of the solution, rather than rushing in, or walking away because things didn't work out in my timing.
If you're looking for an unusual way into Advent, try this book. (Here's a heartfelt review by novelist Lev Grossman if you're still on the fence). It gave much-needed depth and nuance to my understanding of what I (and we) are waiting for.