From ages past no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who works for those who wait for him. Isaiah 64:4
I hate waiting.
I am the sort of person that when I stand in a grocery store, I mark my place of where I am visually so that I can time whether I picked the fastest cashier to check out with or not. I suspect you probably don’t enjoy waiting either. We live in a cultural moment that is allergic to waiting.
However, one of the most deepening soul-exercises I’ve learned over the years is the discipline of waiting. And the season of Advent is about waiting. Waiting for the transcendent God of the universe to enter time and space and put things to rights. As Tolkien has said, “To make everything sad come untrue.”
If you’re a follower of Jesus, you are someone who lives as an advent person in an instant-everything-world. And waiting teaches us to hope in God even in the moments when the world seems uncertain and we don’t have a whole lot of confidence in ourselves.
Almost twenty years ago my wife and I were rebuilding our marriage. It was summertime and I had sent her and our three young boys to spend four weeks here in Colorado with her parents and family. I stayed in the Seattle area to work.
We made plans to meet in Idaho, just outside of Yellowstone, and I would take them back to the Northwest. We had turned the corner in our relationship towards healing and the anticipation of seeing each other was beyond words.
As I drove through the winding roads of the mountains of Idaho towards the campground, my heart began to beat faster, and my foot got heavier on the gas pedal. A song came on the radio that reminded me of my love for her and I had to pull over to the side of the road because I couldn’t see through the tears in my eyes.
Eventually, I saw the motorhome that held my family and I pulled into their rented space in the KOA campground. I got out of the car and knocked on the door. Someone looked out the window and yelled, “It’s dad!” I opened the outside door and could hear my young boys squealing with excitement.
Then Lynette appeared in the door opening. The only thing separating me from the bride of my youth was a screen door, but it was locked. Lynette struggled to unlock it…her passion to get to me was so intense I thought one of two things were about to happen:
One, she was going to start cussing.
Second, she was going to rip that screen door off its hinges.
Finally, the screen door released and out she came, threw her arms around my neck, kissed my face, bawled so much that she smeared snot all over my shirt.
What does waiting do to you? It increases the intensity of desire for the one you are waiting for. It enlarges our hearts. It deepens our capacity to love. It widens our souls and what our souls were designed for: Love for God and love for one another. Waiting on Jesus to come close does the same to our souls. It opens up caverns of space in our soul for the good Lord to come and abide inside us.
Perhaps it would be good during this season of Christmas music, tinsel, and peanut brittle for you to do business with the reality that perhaps the deep longings of your life that you are waiting for might ultimately be met in Jesus of Nazareth.
My grandfather used to say to me when I would work with him, “Boy, don’t just sit there, do something.” But I’ve learned over the years that more often than not I need to slow down and attend to God. I need to examine my motives and my heart. I need to sit with my deep longings and laments.
There is a stanza in Mary Oliver’s poem Such Silence that says,
I sat on the bench, waiting for something.
An angel, perhaps.
Or dancers with the legs of goats.
No, I didn’t see either. But only, I think, because
I didn’t stay long enough.
This Christmas don’t be content to race from event to event. Don’t be content to live with all the distraction and the noise and the glitter. Slow down, quiet down and expand your capacity to experience Jesus in the deep places in your soul. Don’t just do something, sit there.
If you sit long enough, you might be surprised at who shows up.