The agony and ecstasy of waiting
Advent is upon us. A new year in the Church, a new season for our souls, a few holy weeks to wait and watch, hope and pray. To let every heart prepare Him room. It’s a season of preparation, of simplicity, of humility, of waiting. It’s the waiting that makes my heart ache the most.
I’m already in a season of waiting myself, and it just so happens to coincide perfectly with the liturgical season we begin today. It’s a waiting that both thrills and terrifies me, an unmistakable invitation from God to relinquish control, to lean into Him, to trust His plan with bold confidence. I think of that first Advent—then, it was not a few premeditated weeks when priests wore purple and rose and congregations sung O Come, O Come Emmanuel and families huddled around glowing wreaths at their tables, knowing Who was to come on December 25. Then, it began with a mystifying and wondrous message by an angel to a holy, prayerful, unsuspecting girl, whose little yes changed the world. It was marked by nine secret months, a baby growing hidden in a vessel full of grace. It was marked by a couple’s wondering and marveling at the way God’s plan of salvation had suddenly collided with their own humble lives. It was marked by the unknown, and discomfort, and fear. By poverty and danger and rejection and relief. By watching, hoping, praying, waiting. I wonder if it was the waiting that made their hearts ache the most.
I know I have not been waiting like Mary and Joseph did. I don’t expect to have any plan-altering dreams, or visits from angels, or shining stars to mark my destination. I am not feeling particularly patient. I am imagining all the possible scenarios, all the causes for fear and doubt and anxiety. I am brainstorming the backup plan to the backup plan. I am hoping against hope for a miraculous outcome, one that would fill my heart and mind with joy and peace. I am failing to surrender to God as I ought, as I want. But the beginning of this season is a blessed relief. It marks another reason to wait, yes, but I wait in joyful expectation with great confidence of where the season will lead, of Who will come anew into my heart and my life.
As I knelt in prayer yesterday, I felt a nudge: thank Him in advance. It’s a baffling prayer to make. To say, Lord, I am wholly in darkness and cannot see the end and can hardly bear the unknown, but thank you. Thank you for how you will save me and tend to me and show me why this waiting is entirely good and fruitful and sanctifying. Thank You for the peace and relief and light You will bring. Thank You for inviting me to surrender again and again, for growing my heart, for increasing my trust. These aren’t prayers that naturally spring from my heart, but they arise from the depths carved out by the waiting and aching. They are prayers I know I could never make if I did know the end now, if I saw the entire narrative and understood the reason for my current unknowing state and could mark the day when the season would end. So I give thanks for the season, too.
Just as Jesus grew in Mary’s womb as she waited in darkness to see and understand, I pray I, too, would allow Him to grow in me. That I would walk with blind faith and grace-filled hope that defies human reason. That, at the end of this aching season, Jesus will be born in my life like never before.
He is worth the wait.