Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
For You I wait all the day.
Waiting. Nobody likes it. That’s why you get miffed when you choose the wrong line at Kroger. That’s why you grumble when hit a red light. That’s why you get cranky in a doctor’s office when you don’t get to see the doc by your appointment time. You check you watch 20 times in ten minutes. The door to the exam rooms opens, the nurse steps out, you sit up on the edge of your seat, and she calls someone else’s name. You sigh and slump back into your chair. Have you ever thought in that moment, “I’m so glad the nurse called her instead of me; she looks sicker than I do”? No one thinks that. We don’t wait very well.
Culture takes notice and tries to cater to our needs: express lines, urgent care, turbo speed internet, instant everything, 24-hour service, same-day shipping. Faster equals better. The shorter the wait, the greater our happiness.
Now here comes Advent and we have to wait again. Will Christmas ever get here? We devise calendars and chains to help us count down the days. We light candles to mark the progression to the big day. And we sing with Alvin and the Chipmunks, “Christmas, Christmas, don’t be late!”
But time moves at its own pace. We can’t hurry it and we can’t slow it down. That means waiting will always be part of our experience. Simone Weil writes, “Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life.” Waiting enlarges the soul. Waiting grows patience. Waiting prepares the soul to receive the blessing for which we’ve waited.
Advent can teach us to wait if we’ll let it. Advent waiting teaches us to do something in the meantime that reflects the life and love of Jesus: serve the poor, share the good news with those who need it, show love to a neighbor, care for the suffering, give to those in need. Advent waiting also teaches us to be alert to the blessings in all the little moments that lead to the big moment. Indeed, Advent waiting is best done with open eyes, open ears, open hearts, and open hands.
Henri Nouwen has written about the fruit of patient waiting: “What seems a hindrance becomes a way; what seems an obstacle becomes a door; what seems a misfit becomes a cornerstone.”
Tis the season to be … waiting. Wait well, my friends,