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Waiting is too hard to do. Yet, wait we do, on a daily basis. We wait for medical appointments. We wait in cashiers’ lines. We wait for delivery of purchases. We wait to heal from injuries and illnesses. We wait to hear good news and wait fearfully for the drop of the other shoe. We wait in anticipation as well as anxiety.
Children wait, hopping from one foot to another, for birthday parties and holidays. Teens wait, impatiently, for the magic drivers’ license time. Engaged couples wait eagerly for their wedding day. Pregnant women wait for the birthing of babies, the start of a new family. Seniors wait for Social Security and Medicare eligibility. Waiting is truly a way of life.
Yet, we seem not to appreciate the value of the waiting game. Our expectations often overrule the power of expectancy. We want to get quickly past the waiting time to enter the new reality. The signs are all around us. Christmas music and decorations beat Thanksgiving to the punch. We are “there” without ever being “here” and we miss the reward of waiting in the process.
This pre-Christmas time, celebrated by many denominations as the Advent season, is our unique season for learning how to wait graciously, gracefully, and with gratitude. It’s an opportunity to enter into waiting and learn from it.
I suggest we might add some prepositions to the word waiting and see what happens. We could contemplate what it would be to wait with others, instead of going it alone. What would we talk about as we waited with another? What stories could we tell about our waiting experiences? I am sure there would be laughter as well as tears, anger as well as joy. I am also certain that door to our hearts and spirits would open as we shared our tales, the fabric of our lives.
How about waiting for each other? I know I have grown in patience, not always without an accompanying angst, when I have waited for someone. It was not simply a “hanging around” but an intentional yearning for understanding, a desire for insight; growth both on my part and on theirs. I waited for them to know me and for me to more deeply comprehend their point of view. We were all surprised at the result and commented that it was worth the wait. It was good to get to know each other on a different and deeper level. Unexpectedly, it was fun.
Can we try waiting each other? Servanthood is so often described in negative terms. No one wants to be another’s slave. This is not about slavery. It is about sacrifice, about making life a holier place, a more sacred spot for all humanity. It’s about giving oneself to another to empower them, to encourage, affirm, and validate their giftedness.
There are myriad ways in which to accomplish this unique waiting. It can be as simple as preparing and serving a cup of coffee in the morning. I mean being attentive to another’s needs, not necessarily their wants, and then attending to them.
When I was doing business at a local bank, I noted the message offered by the tellers. It impressed me because it indicated their mission and our own human one. Upon answering the phone, the teller said, “How may I put you first?” Startled, I wondered when I had last had a similar thought and then asked the corresponding question. When had I made real an attitude, a motivation to discover in what ways I might put someone else first?
To make the inquiry is to raise both my consciousness and that of the person with whom I am communicating. Now we are in a common union, trying to figure out what each of needs to be and needs to do to wait on the other. Each of us will have to sort out priorities, separate superficial desires from serious deprivations. Each of us will have to wait, and see.
Sometimes the expectation is overpowering. We ache with an “I can’t wait” reaction and miss the marvel of the present moment. Advent calls us to an ever-deepening sense of awakening, of being alert to what is happening now. It asks us not to dwell on the “what if’s” of life, possibilities that may or may not ever occur, possibilities that lure us away from the phenomenon of waiting.
Advent asks us to pay heed to all that is and to report the graces that abound and surround us. Waiting gives us the time and space to make that task a joy. Waiting means looking intently and intensely at all that is, seeing beyond the surface. When we go beyond a superficial gaze, we see miracles; the blind regain their sight; the deaf hear; the lame walk; feeble hands become strong; weak knees become firm; fear leaves; faith walks freely. Whether these are literal occurrences or not, they are real and true.
Advent waiting reminds us we are Emmanuel people. God walks with us wherever we go, however we travel. We wait like the holy couple, Mary and Joseph, who waited with God, waited for God, waited on God. Their waiting drew them into surprises, impelled them into places they would not have chosen, and awakened them to the power of God in their lives.
As they lived the waiting game, so can we. As they entered their fears and doubts to deepen their faith and faithfulness, so can we. As they birthed the Christ in their lives for the world, so can we. As they received signs of God’s presence, so can we. All that is needed is for us to step into the value and virtue of waiting.
Want to try it with me? I can scarcely wait to hear your response.