Taking the time to wait for God
By Jeanne Hunt
How are you about waiting? You are in the grocery store line with a gallon of ice cream and the person in front of you has 30 coupons; road crew is placing cones down the road, and traffic is backed up for a mile; you have an hour for lunch, and the server is not bringing your check. Waiting is a part of life, and we all hate it. Is this because we have become accustomed to instant results? Waiting causes us stress, and we already have enough of that. Or perhaps we are immersed in very busy lives with more to do than we can ever hope to accomplish.
As usual, those who embrace the kingdom of God think differently about waiting. We love it! It seems that when we settle down for a long wait, God shows up for a conversation. During Advent, there is good reason for us to step out of our hectic lives and wait with God. Advent is the heavenly version of a waiting room. Nothing to do but talk to yourself…or God. While the rest of the world is singing Christmas carols, wearing red sweaters, and eating cookies, we Catholics are lying low. Purple is the color of the day, the cookies are in freezer waiting for Christmas Eve and the all-Christmas-music-all-the-time radio station is lying dormant. What in the world are we thinking? The Christmas parade is going to pass us by!
The main players in the Nativity story were masters at waiting. Mary, Zechariah and Elizabeth, and Simeon and Anna teach us that faith is all about waiting. What they teach us is that something immense is brewing and we must sit and wait for it to come. Simone Weil, a Jewish writer, said, “Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life.” We are not waiting for God; God is waiting for us. He is telling us, “If you would just sit still without all your noise and distraction, I will come to you with abundant wonder.”
We are to be alert for the slightest change in the wind, the simplest word, the softest kiss in the night. Spiritual writer Henri Nouwen says, “It is a waiting in the knowledge that someone wants to address us.” Without expecting something we don’t know that something is about to happen.
Often, the waiting is as good as the event. As we spend the four weeks of Advent waiting to celebrate Christ’s birth, there is a sense that we are with Him. He abides quietly within, hoping we will notice His presence.
So, how does this play out as we face the busy pre-Christmas rush? When will there be time to do this waiting thing? If God is waiting for me, what should I do? We must be honest with ourselves: we are not monks. We are busy, secular people living in the real world with families, jobs, and lots of responsibilities. Christmas seems to make it worse. That is precisely the point: when we let go of all of those things we think are necessary and discover the one thing that really is necessary, we’ll find God waiting for us.
The most important thing we can do is give up the world’s version of the holidays and be quiet. Look for moments of stillness. Sit in front of a fire and know that God is near. Allow that quiet voice within to speak a word. We can put aside others expectations of us and choose a quieter December — free from music, parties, shopping. Just take time to wait. And when you are waiting in traffic or long lines or on a negligent server, be aware that even an earthly wait gives you a nudge from God that He is there preparing to give you His Son, once again, this Christmas.