"We are not restful people who occasionally become restless. But we are restless people who occasionally become restful.” (Henri Nouwen)
I invite you to just lean back in your memory of your everyday experiences and recall where you wait: for your medicine, or for it to take effect, for your meals, for a phone call, a visit, or a letter. Or you wait for the result of your tests, or for healing. (Pause) Think of a time you waited and how you felt. Turn and tell someone where you have waited – share how you felt. How did it change you?
We wait because we have to – sometimes we have no choice but to wait. And we may wait impatiently, looking at our clocks, calendars, watches – or maybe we even find ourselves complaining – if not verbally, then we may hold it in and do some “internal global whining.” Our culture tends to view waiting as an inconvenient necessity or as an outright injustice that stems from a variety of factors, for example:
• We see time as a resource to be controlled and allocated for our own personal gain and convenience.
• We allow time to run our lives, hurrying to and from scheduled appointments and on to the next appointment.
• We see waiting as a certain sign that something is wrong that should have been fixed but was not.
• Our entertainment, from television, to radio talk shows, to movies has created an illusion that all problems are resolvable in something less than two hours or even less than that.
• Our culture tends to prize action more than meditation, speed rather than slow progress and arriving rather than the journey.
So in our culture, waiting sometimes bores and often irritates us however we may find that at every stage of our lives some new forms of waiting are involved. However the Scriptures teach us that if we approach waiting in the right spirit, waiting is a creative moment when we grow spiritually. When we wait, we are in touch with an essential aspect of our humanity which is that we are dependent on God and on one another. It is also an act of love since, by waiting for others; we pay them the respect of letting them be free. Waiting is a mystery – God waits and nature waits – so that when we as individuals wait we go beyond ourselves and enter into sacred life-giving process, experiencing that we are made in the image and likeness of God. This is why Advent is a time of celebration.
Advent is the season when we remember with gratitude creative experiences of waiting in our lives or the lives of people we have known, the people who have waited for us at one time or another. We also remember the great waiting experiences in human history, in the Scriptures, and especially in the life Jesus. Today, we have come to reflect on faithful waiting. Henri Nouwen writes that, “Faithful waiting is the antidote to fear and self-doubt. It is believing God can accomplish in us something greater than our imaginings.”
Waiting teaches us to live life in increments, in small pieces rather than large chunks. Waiting teaches us to measure our progress slowly. It is hard to trust in God’s time - Kyros time – God’s slow unfolding time. God’s time is different from our time - Chronos time - time of clocks and calendars. On God’s time, we are often waiting for the bigger picture but must be content with each small piece. When we are waiting, we put one foot in front of the other every morning and evening. Henri Nouwen says that sometimes we have enough light only for the next step. Faithful waiting teaches us patience. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the fullest in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us. Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and therefore want to go elsewhere. The moment is empty. But patient people dare to stay where they are. Faithful waiting means nurturing the moment.
So this week, let us ask for the grace to be open to Advent opportunities to practice holy waiting, and to grow in being restful in our restlessness!