I ask a question at the end of this post, and it’s not rhetorical – I’m interested to know how you wait purposefully during Advent and other times. Please leave a comment!
For people like us, in a society that’s focused on productivity, one of the hardest parts of waiting is finding a way to “redeem the time.” If we’re going to be sitting in traffic, the least we can do is make a few phone calls, or listen to a book, or munch on a snack…
That’s how I feel at the moment. We’re in this in-between time, before we head back to Slovakia. Who knows how long it will be? Should sit and wait on the news, doing nothing, so we’re ready to jump as soon as we hear something? Of course not! While we wait, we can still learn language, do school lessons with the girls, read about Roma and Slovak history… there are so many ways we can fill the time with purposeful waiting.
This is actually one of the areas that our impatient culture might work in our favor sometimes.
Waiting does not have to be “dead time.” That’s our fear, I think – that we’ll be waiting in this dead space, with nothing to do until something happens. I think of the “Waiting Place” in Dr. Seuss’ wonderful book Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, where people are simply waiting for the next important thing to happen in their lives.
Or more to the point, I think of the popular Christian song, “Fingertips and Noses,” in which special-needs children crowd to the windows watching for Jesus to return. It’s a great song, that holds an important message for us about waiting with expectation and hope. But I think we should be wary of purposeless waiting – in which we do nothing. I don’t think this is God’s intention at all. See, for instance, the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, or the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:1-30).
We should certainly not sit around doing nothing – like the disciples at the Ascension, who stood staring into the sky waiting for Jesus to turn around and come back (Acts 1:9-11). Neither should we simply busy ourselves with meaningless activity. Instead, we should wait purposefully.
I love watching the Olympic Games each time they occur. To me, there’s something real about the Olympics – these are real people, trying to put aside their real struggles for a time, to achieve something great. One of my favorite things to watch is the athletes in preparation: a skater getting ready for his big routine; a swimmer waiting for her turn to step up to the diving platform; a runner psyching up for the next race. Every athlete has his or her own way of preparing for the big moment – and that time of preparation is the essence of what it means to wait purposefully. They’re not doing nothing. Whether they’re meditating, listening to a certain song, or intentionally distracting themselves from the anxiety, the athletes do what it takes to be ready for this very important moment.
As Christians, an important moment is coming for us – Jesus has promised that he will return. The problem is, we don’t have a calendar date for it. Advent is a season when we could just busy ourselves endlessly – goodness knows there’s plenty to do! But if we allow it, Advent can be a time to wait purposefully. How? I try to infuse my most mundane tasks with purpose – praying for each person as we seal their Christmas card; listening to scripture as I exercise; asking God to reveal himself in each conversation with friends and strangers.
What are some ways you’ve found to be purposeful in your waiting? (NOT A RHETORICAL QUESTION!)