Waiting With A Sense of Promise
Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life. - Simone Weil
I'm not keen on waiting--especially when I'm waiting to buy something in a store in the weeks just before Christmas. It's the worst kind of torture for someone who struggles with impatience.
And invariably, the store in question will have twelve cash registers, but only three of them will be staffed. You know what I'm talking about, don't you? (I'm looking at you Wal-Mart) .
My question is simply this: "Why create all of those cash registers when you build a store if they are destined to remain largely unused?"
Is it just to mess with us? To give us the illusion of what could be if they actually staffed up the place? Maybe it's some sort of elaborate scheme to get us to buy more. If you buy more stuff, we'll be able to afford my cashiers--come on, help us out.
I got to thinking about waiting and Advent this week and I re-read some brilliant work that the late Henri Nouwen did on the subject. Nouwen acknowledged that in the immediacy of our current culture waiting is considered an abhorrent and wasteful activity.
Which is why people have lost their ability to more fully embrace the season of Advent.
Nouwen believed true waiting--the kind that we are called to do as followers of Jesus during this season of anticipation--is something that contains a smattering of expectation combined with a great deal of faith and trust. He writes:
"We can only really wait if what we are waiting for has already begun for us. So waiting is never a movement from nothing to something. It is always a movement from something to something more."In other words, during this blessed season, we wait with a sense that what we are waiting for has already begun, it's already happening---that we have already begun to realize what we are anticipating.
Nouwen defined a true waiting person as someone who knows:
"... that what they are waiting for is growing from the ground on which they are standing... someone who is present to the moment, who believes that this moment is the moment."When we learn to wait with this kind of attitude, it changes everything. This is how we begin to see the great work that God is doing all around us through Jesus to bring shalom or peace to the world.
This is how we can see that despite the bad news we might hear on cable TV there is still plenty of goodness, beau, y and truth in the world.
This is how we can say that God is love when we see hatred all around us.
So as you wait during this season of Advent, wait with confidence and joy. Wait knowing that the One who is coming has been here all along--has, in fact, never left us.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.