Waiting on Purpose

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.

The Waiting Place
The Waiting Place

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.

getty_rm_photo_of_michael_phelps_wearing_headphonesI 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!)

2 thoughts on “Waiting on Purpose

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  1. Jon, you seem to know my heart and how to make me think in the right way!

    Because Elizabeth was having such a wild time trying to get ready for Christmas and because Bedford was having such a difficult time waiting for it to get here (and Augusta is in school all day), I decided to keep Bedford for most of this week. I dearly love his company–I always learn so many more things about him–but I have to admit that he wears me OUT! Keeping him has been my act of purposeful waiting. I can reinforce things he is learning about the Christmas story and read the many beautiful books about the season to him. He really loves to be read to now and can even sit still for a few minutes at a time. I can take him to look at the tacky lights and decorations and go around the corner to see them again and again and again. I can take him to Bevells and watch the trains go round and round and round. I take him to Hickory Hill and spend two hours just walking around talking to the residents and then stop by to visit a few folks on the way back to Dundas. I probably find more time and patience for this now than I did for even my own children. And it is fun! He fills me with hope when he tells me “I wuv you, Nan” and gives me that completely spontaneous hug for the umpteenth time in a day. I am reminded that there are so many important things to do and so many wonderful people to visit while we wait. Thanks for helping me remember this!

    Love and prayers,

    Karen

    1. Thanks for sharing this, Karen – I tend to look for meaning in new things and the out-of-the-ordinary. Often that comes at the expense of appreciating the things that happen often… like hugs. 🙂 Perhaps part of my purposeful waiting this Advent can include finding meaning in those kinds of things!

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