Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! –Psalm 27:14
Two years ago, during Advent, when Omicron was making the rounds, my husband and I crouched close to fit in the zoom screen to meet with our teenager’s doctor. After confirming an autism diagnosis, the doctor began to matter-of-factly outline next steps while I began to ugly cry. Uncontrollably. I wasn’t grieving the result. I knew this diagnosis was a difference – not a deficiency – to explore. No, I felt the weight of sadness for not knowing sooner, and frustration over the long wait for the assessment, and the long wait ahead for the therapies he needed. I was tired of waiting.
As we waited for our teenager’s autism assessment that Advent, our family also waited for our home to be made whole again. A roofing accident had caused a terrible fire. My husband and I waited for the final insurance settlement after nine months of reports and negotiations. We were told we could rebuild our home but the fire and water damage led to irrecoverable damage. A total loss. Our waiting had only begun.
Those December days stretched out, painfully long. I stood before my congregation each week preaching an Advent series on “home” that brought constant reminders of the ongoing waiting God’s people have engaged in for millennia. More waiting. My congregants were in waiting too, of course. Waiting for a new normal. Waiting for medical answers and relief from pain. Waiting for our national bad mood to dissipate. Waiting for God to show up. How would we steward all this waiting?
Two years later, I am struck that the waiting hasn’t really diminished. Sure, some situations have resolved (though we’re still not back home) yet I marvel at how THIS waiting becomes THAT waiting as we wait some more. Still, something happens when we wait honestly and patiently for the Lord. We discover the mystery that God is also waiting for us. Waiting exposes our limitations and can develop a fuller reliance on God. The Psalmist urges: “let your heart take courage.” Open your hearts! Let yourself believe! Divine abundance is not limited by our circumstances or narrow imaginations, but experiencing it requires practice. So how will we wait well knowing that God is waiting for us? How do we move from waiting for “it” to be over, to joining God’s expectant advent journey? Here are formation practices that have helped me:
- Pay attention to the pattern of life, death, burial, and resurrection. Our church is learning to honor both what is alive and what is dead. Burial – particularly of old ways of being and doing church – requires more patience and discernment but can lead to rebirth. Worth the wait.
- Practice presence by attending to each moment with curiosity; allowing God to meet us in the sunset or child’s laugh or any simple thing. Practicing presence helps us relinquish what we cannot change from the past nor control in the future.
- Contemplative practices like Breath Prayer, Centering Prayer, Welcoming Prayer, and the Prayer of Examen, help us to stay attuned to the Spirit’s movement.
- Connection with people and community in the waiting makes all the difference in a time when isolation and loneliness have been declared a health crisis. Our church provided ongoing support, prayer, and grace in our family’s house loss. They also showed up to put together used Ikea furniture which deserves sainthood. Now, they’re learning how to show up for our most vulnerable neighbors. How might we grow emotional and spiritual health in our faith communities so we may be a soft landing place for others?
As we wait and prepare for Christ to be born in us and in our world again this Advent, may we not be passive observers of all we cannot control but people waiting for the living God, who waits for us. We wait on God, with God, with courage and expectancy, and the waiting reveals the abundance that was there all along.