I subscribe to Sarah Bessey’s weekly emails (so worth it!), and right now she’s doing an Advent series as we approach Christmas. She just wrote a post on the theme of Waiting. The traditional Advent values to celebrate in the four Sundays leading up to Christmas are Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Sarah found out that the Carmelite nuns have their own version, and focus on Waiting, Accepting, Journeying, and Birthing instead.
I like this approach to Advent a lot. It can be hard for me to not get cynical sometimes, and the values of hope, peace, joy and love are so crucial but also so seemingly missing from our world a lot of the time. It’s hard for me to feel hopeful when I am so acutely aware of all the suffering going on day to day at personal and global levels. It’s certainly hard to feel peace when there is still so much conflict in my own country and around the world. I feel fairly peaceful in my own, personal life, but I don’t believe that I’m made to live in a bubble. So the knowledge of suffering of others is enough to disrupt my peace.
I can really identify with the idea of Waiting. I believe in a good and holy Universe, one created with a divine purpose. I believe that we are all made in the image of God, are made with purpose, value, and love, and that everyone is capable of both good and evil. I believe that the Creator of the Universe desires each of us to be in union with all of creation, to live in harmony with each other and with nature. And while I do not feel at peace that any of that is happening currently, I feel the longing and waiting for how it should be.
Waiting can be healthy or unhealthy, like so many things. Healthy waiting to me seems active. I am waiting to find my next job, but I’m not simply sitting at home wishing for a job to call me. I’m sending out resumes and interviewing and actively seeking it out.
I’m waiting for a kinder world, where people realize that we are all nuanced, we all have a story, and we are mostly all trying our best. I’m waiting for a world in which people root each other on, believe the best in each other, and give each other a leg up where they can, as opposed to being so insecure and weak that they look to put down and humiliate anyone they can in order to feel better about themselves. My waiting is active, as I try to practice kindness myself. As I intentionally look for people to help, with my resources, money and/or time. As I support and cheer on someone else’s success without thinking it takes away from my own. As I strive to be understanding and considerate when someone disappoints or frustrates me, knowing that I do not know their whole story. As I wait, I hope to assist in bringing about the world I’m waiting for.
The hardest thing for me is to wait when I know that there is no guarantee of the outcome I want. I do not believe in a “prosperity gospel,” which got popular in the 1950s. I do not think that there is a certain number of prayers, or people praying, or days of fasting, or money given to the church, or any formula, to make God act like a genie. So, while I am really, really praying for better health for people in my family, I know that they may never get the outcome we want. That’s just life. While I’m praying to find a job that I will enjoy and that will support my family and the work/life balance I want, I know that just may not happen.
Waiting for something you know is going to happen can be hard enough. Waiting for an unknown, an uncertain outcome, that’s where faith really comes in. Not faith that I will ultimately get what I want or that things will work out the way I’m hoping, but faith that I will be ok, no matter what happens. Faith that God is present with me in my suffering and my success, and that my life can be joyful and fulfilling even if it doesn’t turn out as planned. Faith that I will be strong enough to withstand the worst outcome. Or faith that I will keep maturing and growing and maybe realize that what I was waiting for is unnecessary or off track.
There is a lot to wait for in this world. Waiting for the next phase of life, to meet your spouse, to get pregnant, for the kids to start sleeping through the night, for the next stage. Waiting for a promotion or a better job. Waiting to have enough money to afford that big trip, house, or to afford anything. Waiting to feel healthy, self-assured, mentally and physically strong. Waiting for that relationship to improve. Waiting to get brave enough to truly be yourself, out in the world. A lot of that waiting can be active. WE are our best bet at bringing about the fate we seek. And as for the rest, “give it to God.”