The Spirituality of Waiting

Children hate waiting.

And this is both the best and the worst time of year for them as they agonizingly wait another 30 days for Christmas Eve to arrive. And let’s be honest, we all hate waiting to a large degree.

We often feel that waiting is lazy. It’s ineffective. It’s unproductive. We should be doing something with our time rather than…waiting.

And yet, Advent is a season of waiting. Starting this Sunday, we take time in the spiritual life of the church to reflect upon how the world waited for a Messiah to arrive in the birth of Jesus, and we simultaneously wait for the return of Jesus one day in the future.

I recently re-read much of Henri Nouwen’s writing on the spirituality of waiting, and he reminds us that we often attempt to busy ourselves rather than waiting. If we are busy, then we are important. If we are busy, then we are relevant. If we are busy, then we have value.

But so much of life forces us to wait. If we took a long and hard look at our lives, we would see that so much of what it means to be human is to wait and see what happens.

We wait to see if we will get that job. We wait to see if someone we love will survive. We wait to see when a new baby will arrive.

Nouwen says that the very nature of Jesus’ passion was waiting. He waited to be arrested. He waited to hear Pilate’s sentence. He waited to be nailed upon a cross. So much of Jesus’ passion was waiting to be acted upon.

And through all of that waiting, he trusts that God’s love will shape his future, not fear.

What would it look like for us to actively wait? To be prayerful and mindful of the present moment that we’re waiting upon? To wait and trust that God will act rather than fearfully busying ourselves and trying to control our lives to every degree?

I think we might just find a bit more peace, and we might just begin to realize how God actively works in the world to love us and shape us through our waiting.

The New Testament tells the story of a people waiting for a Messiah and waiting for hope in the birth of Jesus.

What would it look like if rather than busying ourselves in desperation, we waited just as they did? Just as they were surprised to find God in the form of a tiny baby, we might just find God with us today in new and incredible ways.

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