I don’t particularly like waiting. Especially when I have a clear sense of what I want to see happen and how (and when) I want it to unfold. And yet, so much of life involves waiting, whether we like it or not.
Waiting to conceive a child. Waiting for a child to be born. Waiting for a spouse. Waiting for a toddler to grow beyond the “terrible 2’s” or a teenager to survive the turbulence of adolescence. Waiting for an illness to pass or a bout of suffering to let up, even a little bit. Waiting to complete a degree. Waiting for retirement. The list goes on and on.
We are halfway through the season of Advent, the 4 week period leading up to Christmas, and part of why I love advent is its explicit emphasis on waiting: waiting to celebrate the birth of the Christ child and God breaking into history. In this season of waiting, there is something comforting and expansive about a collective and shared sense of waiting, anticipating, expecting. A reminder that I’m not alone in the things I’m waiting for.
Three months ago, I moved to London and have been in a new season of waiting. Waiting to make new friends, waiting to develop relationships with neighbors, waiting to discover all the back roads in my new neighborhood, waiting to feel like this is really my new home, waiting for a new job. Again the list goes on. I’ve also found myself doing a lot of waiting at bus stops, in lines at the post office, even waiting for emails to be returned. This kind of waiting has forced me to slow down and in the new pace, I’ve found that waiting can be life-giving. And I’ve discovered that waiting in these small ways has become a good way of practicing to wait for the bigger things to come.
It takes energy to wait, whether we do it well or not so well. We can fret, become worried, anxious, or worked up as we wait. Or we can receive each day (or delay) as it comes, hold our expectations loosely and be ready to glimpse the unexpected gifts that come our way: the unplanned conversations, the unexpected insights we gain, the deeper appreciation we have for our current situation, and so on. And as we do, we can get lots of practice waiting in the small ways.
Advent is here. Christmas is coming. How will you choose to wait this season?