Being Present in the Waiting — #Advent2015
This week starts the Advent season. The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival,” and it’s an entire season focused on waiting and anticipation. Which doesn’t sound very fun, right?
We live in a culture of instant gratification. We can get what we want when we want it. And most times, that sounds like a fantastic thing. We can get what we want right now, no waiting. Everything is instant — from coffee to TV shows to music — which is a great thing, but it teaches us to be impatient. We don’t like to wait for anything and when we do have to wait, it’s often filled with frustration.
I was in NYC last month and returning home, got to the airport only to find that the line I had to get into was filled with people; there were only two airport staff working to get a mass of people through the line and to their planes on time. So we had to wait. I stood there in line for about an hour before getting through to security. In that time in line, I noticed three different attitudes emerge.
First, there were the people who got upset and frustrated, even angry. They simply didn’t want to wait. These were the people who would make it their goal to let the airport staff know that it was not OK to make them wait, speaking to them in harshly, pushing to get their way so they didn’t have to wait (which of course, got them nowhere).
Then there were the people who just accepted the fact that they had to wait. They weren’t necessarily frustrated about waiting, but they chose to ignore the waiting. They would take out their phones to entertain themselves as they waited, taking their attention off the waiting. They used their phones to escape the situation and fill the time.
Finally, there were people who decided to make the best of the situation they were in. Sure, they had to wait like everyone else, but they didn’t get frustrated or upset; they didn’t try to escape their situation and distract themselves. Instead, they embraced the waiting and found ways to use the time they had. These people would be the ones laughing, smiling, and talking with the people around them. They used the time they had to focus on the people around them, in conversation, and decided to be present in the now.
We have been conditioned to get what we want now, without waiting.
I pay $100 a year for Amazon Prime so I don’t have to wait longer to get my packages. My mom mentioned she doesn't even search on Amazon for anything unless it’s offered with Prime shipping, because she doesn’t want to wait. Further, I was talking to my dad about getting new laptop (I’m trying to convert him over to Mac) and the computer he wants is like $3,000 since he wants it modified to be faster. So I say “Dad, why do you need all those specs — what’s the point?” He says, “Cause I don’t want to wait for anything!”
And it’s true. We don’t want to wait. Not even for a computer program.
We want better internet so our downloads are faster. Have you ever found yourself getting annoyed when a webpage won’t load as fast as you want it too? You probably have, and it shows you are a victim of our instant-gratification-culture. I know I have been affected by all of these situations which have created in me a spirit against waiting. I get frustrated if I pick the wrong line at the grocery store…or when the line at Taco Bell is taking too long (which, of course, leaves way too much time then to come to your senses and reilize that you shouldn’t be in line at Taco Bell in the first place). It’s not that every situation in which I have to wait is one that I should enjoy or be happy about, but it’s the way that I have been conditioned to view any kind of waiting as bad or a waste of time.
Which is actually against the core of Scripture. There is a thread that runs through Scripture that weaves it’s way from the beginning to the end. A thread that runs through thousands of years, and it is focused on waiting. From the beginning, Adam and Eve fall to sin and we are told: there is a Savior coming, a Messiah, a King who will rule and rescue…we just have to wait. The people of God waited and waited for the Messiah, endlessly looking ahead and hoping that the arrival would come soon. They would tirelessly prepare themselves, tell stories, and check the prophecies to try to determine when the Messiah might come.
They waited. And waited. And waited some more.
When Messiah finally came, when Jesus Christ broke into the world, when the time had come and the waiting seemed over, Christ said, “Wait for my Holy Spirit.” And so they waited some more. Then, after the Spirit came we are told that Glory and Kingdom are coming — but again, we have to wait. And so we wait.
What we find in Scripture are all kinds of stories about people who became changed in the waiting.
If we got everything got everything we wanted the moment we wanted it, we would lose out on the journey, and what happens on that journey. When we wait, we learn more about ourselves and who we are. God uses waiting to teach us, to change us, to become more of who God has us to be. In the waiting we realize how much we need God in specific ways, and we are able to slowly give over parts of ourselves, the parts of ourselves that can only change with time, with effort.
It’s the way that in marriage, I learn about the ways I need to change that only happen as my relationship with my wife helps me do over time. There are parts of who I am that will only change through marriage. And in the same way, when we wait with God we are changed in ways that can’t happen in any other circumstance.
The catch is that we have to be present in the waiting. If our response to waiting is to become angry or frustrated, we will never accept the time we have and use it how God wants us to.
Or we miss out on the waiting; instead of embracing it and learning through it, we ignore it or dismiss it by distracting ourselves with something else. We fill our time with activities that distract us or take us away from the waiting. We miss out on what can happen within the waiting.
Which is why I love the Advent season. It’s a needed reminder of how we must wait. It re-centers us on the concept of waiting with God. Advent reminds us that the King is coming, that each day brings us closer, that the end of the waiting will have an incredible pay-off. But Advent doesn’t leave it there; instead it reminds us that each day we wait, that each week we wait is filled with purpose and meaning. In the waiting there’s hope, there’s peace, there’s joy — there are things we can embrace and when we do, we allow them to change who we are. We allow the waiting to change us in only the ways that waiting with God can do.
So this Advent season, participate in the waiting. Find yourself longing for the end to come so strongly, but then be satisfied in today. Each day, wake up anticipating the end, but then be present in the now. Reach for the end, but allow the waiting to shape you and make you into someone who is deeply connected to God in the waiting.
We don’t do it enough. We want everything now; Advent reminds us that when we embrace the waiting, we embrace a path and way of life that is close to God’s heart.
This year, seek to be people who know how to wait with God.