Advent is the liturgical season when we pay special attention to the mystery of waiting. In our culture, we have a real problem because most of us Americans don’t like waiting, and we certainly don’t see waiting as something to celebrate. We live in a culture that cooks its food in microwaves, or we can choose the “drive thru,” and we measure time in microseconds or even nano-seconds. It’s not that we do not wait. We may spend hours waiting in lines at airports, at a doctor’s office, on the highway in traffic, at the grocery store checks-outs – we even have to wait in the Self-serve check-out! Recently, I saw a clip that bank tellers may be eliminated with some type of digital technology! So no waiting would be needed. “Everyone knows that Americans hate to stand in line. It’s contrary to the basic American values of independence and self-determination. While standing in line may not threaten life, it certain threatens liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” (T. Stawar)
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.
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.
(This is not the end of the reflection. Can you wait for it? Stay tuned.)